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3 1822 00179 6770 


3 1822 00179 6770 








G. D. H. COLE 

Cheaper Edition, 2s. net 

"We heartily commend this book, first to Trade Unionists, 
but to all others as well who are interested in the greatest 
problem of our time the problem of the control of industry in 
a democratic State." New Statesman. 

" By far the most informative and best-written book on the 
labour problem we have ever read." English Review. 




G. D. H. COLE 





THE present book has a strictly limited aim. It does 
not discuss in any way the question whether Great 
Britain's participation in the present war is right or 
wrong, either from the Labour or from any other 
standpoint. It aims merely at giving a short account 
of the manner in which the war has affected Labour 
and of the industrial problems to which it has given 
rise. The general question of " war and class- war " 
has been introduced only in so far as it is relevant to 
the determination of the attitude adopted by Labour 
during the war on industrial questions. 

It is, of course, impossible for a book of this kind 
to be quite up-to-date. I have stopped with the 
passage of the Munitions Act. 

G. D. H. COLE. 


























THE MUNITIONS ACT, 1915 . . . 293 

BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . .309 

INDEX . . .. . 313 




IT is a commonplace that those who talk most glibly 
of national solidarity are those who least understand 
what national solidarity implies. The cry against 
" setting class against class " has always been raised 
in the interest of those who desire to preserve the 
status quo, and never on behalf of the oppressed. The 
appeal, in fact, has always been to a false idea of 
national unity : at the best it has come from the 
benevolent autocrats of Toryism or the benevolent 
bureaucrats of Liberalism. Those to whom democracy 
is more than a political catchword have refused to be 
deceived by such specious solemnities : they have 
seen that only a radical change in the present economic 
system can make national solidarity either possible 
or desirable. The division of the nation into masters 
and servants is not swept away merely by calling 
them employers and employees : it can disappear only 
with the collapse of the wage-system and the establish- 
ment of industrial democracy. 

But all this, it may be said, is the reasoning of 
peace time. A nation at war, we are told, must set 



aside for the time being all minor antagonisms : in- 
dustrial and social dissensions must give way before 
the supreme need of the nation as a whole. This is 
indeed the feeling of many who are not deluded by 
peace time pleas for unity : recognising the fact of the 
class-struggle, they hold none the less that it should 
be suspended " for the duration of the war only." 

It must be admitted that much of the somewhat 
artificial philosophy of international relations which 
the Labour movement constructed for itself in times 
of peace now proves to have been shallow and unreal. 
No one, who is not of the most incorrigible and self- 
satisfied section of either Jingoes or pacifists, will deny 
the need for revision and restatement of the Labour 
position. But there is danger that the great bulk of 
the leaders, at any rate, will be stampeded into accept- 
ing the philosophy of national unity too nearly at its 
face value. If indeed the old internationalism is 
crumbling, all the greater need for a new internation- 
alism that shall take its place. 

It will be universally agreed that the great mass of 
the workers alike in Great Britain, in Germany, and 
in France wherever, in fact, there is an articulate 
body of working-class opinion desired peace at least 
up to the moment when war actually broke out. 
Between the organised workers of the European Powers 
there is no quarrel capable of provoking war, no 
national antagonism strong enough to stand against 
the very real sense of international working-class 
solidarity. Yet it is undeniable that, when once war 
had broken out, the majority of those who had been 
against intervention were prepared to support their 
respective countries in the trenches, in Parliament, 
and in the workshops. 


It was clearly not without uneasiness that they 
came to this decision ; but there was never any doubt 
how they would decide. International Congresses before 
the war had made it plain, from the speeches delivered 
if not from the resolutions passed, that in the event of 
war actually breaking out most of the various Labour 
and Socialist bodies would be likely to place their 
national before their class loyalty. They were con- 
scious of the conflict of loyalties ; but clearly they held 
their national loyalty, in the circumstances, the more 
binding. Only the simplest type of revolutionary 
intelligence would be prepared, without further debate, 
to declare this decision a breach of class-faith. The 
situation in which the organised workers found them- 
selves was indeed extraordinarily difficult . They desired 
to support their country, and they desired or at least 
the best of them desired to be true to their class, both 
nationally and internationally. Their quarrel was 
with capitalism, national and international ; yet they 
found themselves fighting for one capitalist State 
against another. The situation was none the less 
ironic because the capitalist State for which they 
fought was in some sense their own. 

Here, then, is the problem which the revolutionary 
is compelled to face. Is allegiance due first of all to 
the nation, which includes some of all classes, or to the 
class, which includes some of all nations ? 

On the one hand, national divisions are clearly, in 
the majority of cases, natural divisions also. Whatever 
may be true of the British Empire, the unity of all the 
inhabitants of Great Britain is not the merely artificial 
unity of legal subjection to a common sovereign. 
Nations are real persons, and the individuals who 
compose them are conscious of their part in the national 


life. This does not mean that the group-consciousness 
of the nation absorbs or submerges the consciousness of 
the individual ; but it does mean that the individual, 
to whatever groups besides he may feel an attachment, 
cannot see with indifference the defeat or downfall 
of the nation to which he belongs. The tie that binds 
together the members of a community is far stronger 
than mere neighbourhood : it is the tie of a common 
descent or at least of a common inheritance. 

The mere force in history of the national idea is 
enough to prove this, if indeed proof is needed. Where 
nationality has been threatened, other considerations 
have generally been put aside. The cosmopolitan 
crusades of mediaeval Christendom failed more than 
once through national antagonisms. Not even the 
great cosmopolitan idea of the mediaeval Church could 
annihilate nationalist considerations, though, broadly 
speaking, the whole of each nation sincerely professed 
loyalty to the Church. Is then the cosmopolitan class 
loyalty of the modern Labour movement, to which 
only a part of each nation owes allegiance, likely 
to be strong enough to stand against the call of the 
State ? I say " of the State " and not " of the 
nation," and therein lies the final complication of the 

This power of the national idea is based not only 
on the community of blood or tradition which binds 
the members of the nation together : it gets powerful 
support from other sources. The nation is small 
enough and compact enough to be recognised as a unit : 
the spirit of the national idea is made flesh in the daily 
life of every citizen. Not so the cosmopolitan idea of 
class ; for the toilers are scattered over the world, 
lacking community of neighbourhood, blood, tradition, 


or language, united only by the bond of a common 
exploitation. It takes either a rationalist or a senti- 
mentalist to be a cosmopolitan and most men are 
neither. They love realities and, still more, manageable 

Now, the State, which is the national machine, is 
a reality and a manageable reality. It does things, 
right or wrong : it is capable of being influenced, as 
capitalism has taught the workers to their cost. It 
is manageable, even if it is now managed by the wrong 
people. Cosmopolis, on the other hand, has no 
Parliament : it does not act, or pass laws, or coerce 
offenders. It is, at the most, a mere ideal, scarcely 
even based on fact ; and, on that account, the ordinary 
man thinks little of it. 

The man in the street, then, is a nationalist, and 
that very easily makes him a statist. The welfare of 
his nation seems to be bound up with the success of 
the State which claims to express the national unity, 
and he is therefore easily induced, in times of stress, 
to throw in his lot even with a capitalist State. More- 
over, the inducement becomes greater in proportion 
as the State extends its hold. The politician who said, 
" We are all Socialists now," only meant that nowadays 
we all recognise the immense extension of State activity 
that has taken place. 

Precisely this recognition of the State has often been 
proclaimed by modern Socialists as the dividing-line 
between themselves and the Anarchists. The political 
Socialists have set out to capture the State and all the 
national political institutions : the Anarchists, regard- 
ing the State merely as the " protector of property," 
have sought rather to destroy it. Anarchism, then, 
owes no loyalty to the State : even if the Anarchist 


believes in nationality, he seeks to realise the triumph 
of nationality through the overthrow of national 
Governments. For him, no conflict of allegiance 
can arise ; his duty is to his class, and the revolu- 
tion to which he looks is a cosmopolitan class 

The Socialist, on the other hand, who seeks to 
capture the State, obviously must seek also to keep it 
alive and vigorous. It is an instrument which he 
desires to wrest from his enemy, and he therefore wishes 
to keep it bright and ready for use. When it is the 
State and not capitalism that is threatened, he argues 
that he must fly to its aid, even if this brings him 
into temporary alliance with the capitalist. He may 
strive to prevent his State from entering into war ; he 
may refuse to aid it in a war of wanton aggression ; 
but as soon as " the national existence is threatened," 
his duty, he holds, is with the capitalists on the barri- 
cades. And if, in the hour of trial, the capitalists are 
still busy making profits out of the fighting- line, it is 
his business, he believes, to hold the barricades alone 
in the common interest. 

If this line of argument is valid, the occasions on 
which Labour should support the capitalist State in 
war time are not simply those in which the State has 
a righteous cause, but those in which " the national 
existence is threatened." The reason for Labour's 
support lies not in the righteousness of the cause, but 
in the danger to the State. It is in the main not as 
moralists, but as nationalists, that the Socialists can 
justify their action. Arguments about " brave little 
Belgium " are, on this showing, as irrelevant as 
arguments about " the sinister menace of Czar- 
dom " : it is the threat of foreign domination or 


trade supremacy that induces all classes to make com- 
mon cause. 1 This is clearly the justification for their 
policy put forward by the Socialists of Germany. 

Furthermore, it goes far to explain the difference 
between the Labour attitude to the Boer War and the 
Labour attitude to-day. In the Boer War, it was never 
suggested that the nation was seriously threatened. 
In the present war, it can be argued that the 
nation is threatened, and our cause is at any rate 
no worse than that of our enemies. If not, then, 
our cause, at least our danger, induces many Labour 
leaders to support the war, and induces many of these 
who think we should have remained neutral to say 
with Mr. MacDonald that " we ought to go through 
with it." 

There is, however, still an important minority 
among Socialists that holds it always wrong to support 
any war entered into by a capitalist Government. 
This minority is important, because it claims to be 
alone true to the principles of internationalism, to have 
alone kept its head when all other Socialists and Labour 
men have broken faith. No act of a capitalist Govern- 
ment, these somewhat pathetic pacifists affirm, can 
alter the fact of human brotherhood. Have not the 
workers constantly affirmed their international solid- 
arity ? And can their faith be shaken by an act 
that is none of theirs by the act of capitalists and 
exploiters ? 

This division of opinion among Socialists is of the 

1 It is nevertheless clear that the violation of Belgium did 
more than anything else to make Labour support the present war. 
This one event certainly counted, in men's minds, far more than 
all the logical theories in the world. The violation was certainly 
a crime ; but no less certainly it was for the Government a very 
fortunate accident. 


greatest importance for the future of the working-class 
movement, both in this country and internationally. 
It is therefore worth while, even in the midst of war, 
to attempt a clear statement of the position. And I 
shall begin by affirming that no solution of the problem 
can be of the slightest use, unless it both recognises 
nationality as having a real claim on the workers and 
at the same time safeguards the class-idea and class- 

The history of the world has been the history of two 
wars the war of nation with nation and the war of 
class with class. Nor have these wars been less real 
because they have been the wars of indefinables. No 
one can define a nation, and no one can say exactly 
where one nation leaves off and another begins. In 
exactly the same way, there is no definition of class 
that will hold for all times and places, and no one can 
say exactly where the dividing-line between class and 
class should be drawn. Yet class war and national 
war, though sometimes, for centuries on end, one or 
other has seemed in abeyance, have been the constant 
accompaniment of man's social life. 

Moreover, these two wars have reacted on each 
other in curiously complicated ways. In both cases 
there is an appeal to the loyalty of the individual, 
whether the loyalty is to country or to class. Hitherto, 
save at moments of exceptional stress, it cannot be 
denied that " national " spirit has been far stronger 
than " class " spirit. But the growth of industrialism 
and the spread of popular education have tended to 
foster class-consciousness, while cosmopolitan finance 
and international trade have weakened the " little 
national " spirit which comes of isolation. For many 
years, the workers of the world, and still more the 


" intellectuals " attached to the cause of Labour, have 
been debating on the rights and possibilities of this 
conflict of loyalties. The drama that is being enacted 
in Europe to-day is not merely a drama of national 
antagonisms : its deepest interest is psychological. 
From it we may hope to learn at last the true relation 
between nationalism and class-consciousness. 

But all that, it may be said, we know already. 
The bastard internationalism of the Labour and 
Socialist movement collapsed last August like a house 
of cards, and only a miserable remnant of devotees 
was left repeating the old phrases amid the ruin of 
their hopes and their ideals. This is true in a sense ; 
but in another sense there can be no profounder 
mistake. Only the first act of the drama has been 
played. The democracies of Europe have failed to 
prevent war : but in the midst of war they are thinking, 
feeling their way towards a clearer conception of 
nationalism and of internationalism, clearing their 
minds of cant, and preparing to face the future. 
The real conflict the conflict of ideas is only 

The Labour movement has always been vague and 
uncertain in its attitude to nationalism and to Govern- 
ments. It has appeared on one day as the champion 
of oppressed nationalities, and on the next day it has 
declared that the workers have no country. In Great 
Britain it has stood for reduction of armaments, on 
the ground that we need only a large enough force for 
defence ; yet at the same time it has counselled active 
intervention on our part in Persia and elsewhere. It 
has dallied with the doctrine of non-resistance ; yet 
it has cherished aspirations to be the knight-errant of 
world democracy. In short, it has claimed to have 


everything both ways ; and, in consequence, all its 
plans have ended in smoke. 

For the last quarter of a century the Labour and 
Socialist bodies in the various nations of Europe have 
been slowly drawing together into International 
Federations. In 1889 the first International Socialist 
Congress x met in Paris : in 1900 there grew out of it 
the more permanent International Socialist Bureau. 
In 1901 was held the first formal International Trade 
Union Congress, out of which has grown the Inter- 
national Federation of Trade Unions. During the 
'nineties less formal international Labour Congresses 
were several times held, and in 1894 the first Inter- 
national Congress of Textile Workers set a precedent 
which has since been followed in many of the chief 
industries. There are now International Federations 
of Miners, Textile Workers, Metal Workers, Wood 
Workers, Transport Workers, etc., mostly centred in 
Germany, but drawing their members from almost 
every country in Europe. 

Labour has thus built up the skeleton of an elaborate 
international organisation. The bodies concerned fall 
into two clearly distinct groups. On the one side are 
the various political parties and Socialist Societies, 
whose Federation forms the international political 
organ of the movement : on the other side are the 
International Federation of Trade Unions and the 
various International Federations of single industries, 
all these latter forming the industrial organs of inter- 
national Labour. 

What was the attitude of these bodies and of the 

1 The old Marxian " International " was formally wound up in 
1876. The movement of 1889 was Labour's second attempt at 
international organisation. 


sections composing them to the prospect of war up to 
last July ? In the main, the industrial organisations 
did not attempt to face the problem. The International 
Federation of Trade Unions is almost purely a statistical 
and debating body, and has hardly considered the 
possibility of united industrial action ; and when, some 
years ago, the French General Confederation of Labour 
sent in to the Congress resolutions dealing with anti- 
militarism and the General Strike against war, the 
International Trade Union Congress definitely refused 
them a place on the agenda, on the ground that they 
would be more properly raised at the International 
Socialist Congress. 

The International Federations of the various in- 
dustries have also naturally avoided the discussion of 
the general question of internationalism. They exist 
to deal with the problems which are common to the 
workers in certain industries wherever they are carried 
on, and the excellent work which they do could only be 
hampered if the internationalist red herring were 
drawn across their track. The International Transport 
Workers' Federation, for instance, has also refused 
to table a resolution on the General Strike against war, 
apparently on the ground that it might complicate 
relations with the German authorities. 

It is, then, in the main to the International Socialist 
Congress and to the International Socialist Bureau 
that we must look for a definite pronouncement on 
the attitude of Labour to war. There, in the reports 
of the Congress of 1907, we shall find the record of 
the most important debate on the question and of the 
resolution carried at the close. 1 As it was the policy 

1 A good account of this debate is to be found in H. N. Brailsford's 
The War of Steel and Gold, pp. 187 ff. The whole of chapter vi. 
of Mr. Brailsford's book deals with this question. 


recommended by the International in 1907 that the 
Socialists of Europe at least began to put into effect 
last July, both the debate and the resolution are of 
the greatest importance for an understanding of the 
Labour position. 

The discussion arose at the instance of the French 
delegates, who had for more than ten years before 
been holding heated arguments about it in France, 
where the Syndicalist Confederation of Labour and a 
section of the Socialists, led by nerve", had advocated 
uncompromising anti-militarism. In response to the 
challenge of the Syndicalists, Jaures and the leaders 
of the Socialist Party formulated their policy of anti- 
militarism, and carried it to the International Congress 
for discussion. 

The actual debate, which ended in the passing of a 
specially drafted resolution by unanimous vote, was 
remarkable chiefly for the conflict of views between 
the French and German Socialists. Alike in rejecting 
the idea that Socialists should support their country, 
" right or wrong," they differed hi the alternative 
policies which they suggested. The French held that 
the Socialist Parties should be guided by the rights and 
wrongs of the particular occasion, and should always 
throw their weight against the aggressor, even if it 
were their own country. The Germans, on the other 
hand, preferred to be guided by the general character 
of the contending Powers, and held that Socialists should 
take the side most likely to forward Socialism and 
democracy. Bebel declared that he would shoulder 
a rifle for Germany against Russia on these grounds : 
it did not appear whether he would as unhesitatingly 
have taken the part of Great Britain or France against 


While the various nations differed in their view of 
the right tactics to adopt if war should actually break 
out, they all agreed that it would be the duty of Social- 
ists in every country to use all their endeavours to 
prevent war from breaking out. So far, the action 
taken by them in 1914 follows the lines laid down in 
the resolution, of which the final wording was as 
follows : 

// war threatens to break out it is the duty of the working- 
class in the countries concerned and of their Parliamentary 
representatives, with the help of the International Socialist 
Bureau as a means of co-ordinating their action, to use every 
effort to prevent war by all the means which seem to them most 
appropriate, having regard to the sharpness of the class war 
and to the general political situation. 

Should war none the less break out, their duty is to intervene 
to bring it promptly to an end, and with all their energies to 
use the political and economic crisis created by the war to 
rouse the populace from its slumbers, and to hasten the fall 
of capitalist domination. 

Like most resolutions that are carried unanimously 
at the end of a controversial debate, this declaration 
merely avoids the greatest difficulties. It falls, as 
we have seen, sharply into two parts. On the action 
to be taken in face of the threat of war, its instructions 
are clear and definite ; for on this point all Socialist 
and Labour bodies are agreed. On the action to be 
taken in the event of war its answer is evasive and 

Last July it became very suddenly the duty of 
European Labour to put the first clause of the resolu- 
tion into effect. During the week or so when the 
decision for war or peace seemed to hang in the balance, 
Socialist and Labour bodies in all the countries con- 


cerned held imposing meetings and demonstrations 
to protest against intervention by the countries to 
which they belonged. The International Socialist 
Bureau met and counselled this course, and its lead 
was everywhere followed with alacrity. But despite 
demonstrations and resolutions, the working-class 
leaders well knew that the decision for peace or war 
would not in reality rest with the workers, that in 
fact the crisis through which Europe was passing was 
the result of a long series of diplomatic manoeuvres 
in which the workers had had no say, and that it was 
in reality vain to protest at the eleventh hour. Labour 
everywhere protested on principle ; but from the first 
the tone of its protest was dead and hopeless. It 
gained only this : that the workers in every country 
can say that, down to the outbreak of war, they kept 
faith with the International. 

What, then, of the second clause in the resolution, 
round which the controversy really centres ? In this 
clause there were two recommendations, dealing 
respectively with the war in its international and in 
its social aspects. In the first place, the workers were 
urged to intervene promptly in order to bring the war 
to an end, and in the second place they were " to use 
the political crisis created by the war to rouse the 
populace from its slumbers, and to hasten the fall 
of capitalist domination." 

It is comparatively easy to urge that your country 
shall not intervene in a war : it is far more difficult 
to urge that it shall make peace when it has once 
entered upon war. Until war has actually begun, 
there is always the possibility of arbitration, of a 
conference of the Powers, or the like : when the nation 
is at war, peace suggestions, however necessary they 


may be, are very difficult to make. A nation at war 
almost inevitably develops a belief in the righteousness 
of its cause ; it almost inevitably comes to believe that 
till it has destroyed, or at least clipped the wings of, 
its adversary, there can be no secure peace. In short, 
it easily and the more easily the larger the area of 
conflict comes to look on itself as the saviour of the 
world. The will to live and the will to power are 
strong in the consciousness of nations, and they easily 
become the will to kill and the will to domination. All 
the greater, no doubt, is the need for a public opinion 
that will press for peace on terms honourable to all 
concerned ; but as Labour bodies consist of men, and 
not always of very wise or clever men, their nationalism 
readily goes Jingo under the stress of the national 
crisis. Thus, there has been practically no attempt in 
any country, except by small minorities in the working- 
class bodies, to give effect to the second clause of the 
International's command. The Independent Labour 
Party in Great Britain, certain Russian and Austrian 
Socialists, and a minority of the German Socialists, 
together with a certain number of French Trade 
Unionists, have demanded peace, and a larger section 
has demanded that the Governments shall publish in 
advance the terms on which they are prepared to make 
peace ; but apart from these scattered and, for the 
most part, unofficial endeavours, nothing has been done. 
The official parties and working-class organisations 
seem convinced of the Tightness of their respective 
countries' causes : the Germans wish to humble 
Czardom and punish Great Britain, while the British 
and the French speak of crushing German militarism. 
Doubtless, as this is an English book, my readers 
will say that our national feeling is easily explained 


by the righteousness of our cause. It is no part of 
my plan to discuss the ethics of the present war, and 
I will only make the answer that is relevant to my 
purpose. It is clear, I reply, that if this were a German 
book, the average German would say the same. Herein 
lies the weakness of the policy recommended by the 
French delegates to the International Socialist Con- 
gress. Socialists, they maintained, should always 
oppose the aggressor. But who is the aggressor ? 
It is no doubt simple to decide such a question in times 
of peace, and with the aid of hypothetical instances ; 
but an international body is seldom likely to agree in 
singling out the aggressor when all Europe is ablaze. 
The International can have no common policy so long 
as it tries to apportion the blame : its only consistent 
course is to go on in war time demanding the reference 
to arbitration or to a conference of all the Powers 
which it urged when war threatened. It will not be 
listened to in any case ; but here, too, it has the chance 
of keeping its hands clean. Under capitalism, that 
would seem to be all the Socialist can hope to do in 
international affairs. 

If the recommendations which we have discussed 
seem academic and unreal, the third suggestion of the 
International brings us back with a start to the world 
of realities. The workers of all countries are definitely 
urged to use the situation created by the war for the 
purpose of undermining the capitalist system. It is 
when we come to discuss this clause that the omissions 
in the International resolution become most obvious. 
It is manifest that a working-class body, if it uses the 
situation created by the war as a weapon against 
capitalism, may well hamper the nation in the conduct 
of war. Yet of this the resolution says not a word. 


It does not say under what circumstances, if ever, 
the workers ought to support a war ; and though 
clearly most of the speakers at the Congress thought 
that there were such circumstances, its last recom- 
mendation seems to imply that the working-class 
organisations should stand aloof and look after their 
economic interests. In fact, this clause conceals the 
real unwillingness of the International to commit 
itself on the one point that is of practical importance. 

For here we come at last to a question which has 
been faced by organised Labour or at least by its 
leaders and decided in a manner which has made 
a real difference. For in the economic sphere Labour, 
more especially in war time, cannot be pushed aside 
as a nonentity ; politically more impotent than in 
peace, it finds its economic power increased tenfold. 
Not only can it hold up the ordinary supplies of the 
nation : it can prevent munitions of war from reaching 
the firing line. 

The actual course pursued by the British Labour 
movement we shall be able to follow in more detail 
in the next chapter : here I am only discussing the 
general principle involved. Should the workers use 
the opportunity created by a war " to hasten the 
downfall of capitalist domination " or should they not ? 
The International Socialist Congress apparently answers 
that they should, and thus in effect surely says that it 
is not right for the workers to support any war. 

It would be clearly absurd at the same time to say 
to one's country, " Go in and win," and to cut off its 
supplies at the source. If Labour determines to sup- 
port a war, it implicitly determines also to supply the 
necessary munitions, and undertakes to attempt no 
offensive movement likely to hamper the nation in the 



conduct of war. In short, it cannot, at least upon a 
large scale, attempt " to hasten the downfall of capitalist 

There are, then, three possible courses before a 
national Labour organisation, if it desires to act 
logically. It may decide that the wars of capitalist 
Governments are not, and cannot be, its business, and 
it may accordingly declare its absolute aloofness. 1 
In this case it is clearly free to follow the advice of the 
International, and to use the situation created by the 
war for the purpose of undermining capitalism. But 
such an attitude, as we have seen, really involves the 
repudiation of nationality. Logical enough, it is so 
flagrantly a violation of natural instincts that it cannot, 
in the last resort, be sustained. 

In the second case, while affirming the duty of 
defending their country in case of need, the workers 
may decide that, in a particular war, the national 
security is not threatened, and may in such a case hold 
themselves at liberty to stand aloof from the war 
and reap what benefits they can from the economic 
situation it produces. This is a logical attitude, 
consistent both with nationalism and with international- 
ism, but not applicable to all cases. 

Thirdly, the workers may decide that the national 
security is threatened and that it is their duty to come 
to their country's aid. In such a case, as we have seen, 
they cannot logically take advantage of the economic 
situation for an attack on capitalism, if in so doing 
they hamper the country in the conduct of war. This 
seems to have been the position taken up by the 

1 For practical purposes, though not in theory, the so-called 
" Tolstoyan " attitude of non-resistance coincides with this first 
view. Thus, Tolstoyans and working-class cosmopolitans are now 
found together in the " stop the war " movement. 


majority of British Labour leaders on the outbreak 
of war. It remains to enquire what action the workers, 
if they hold this view, are still entitled to take. 

The enemies of Labour will of course claim that, 
for the period of the war, the workers must hand 
themselves over tied and bound to their lords and 
masters, that they must submit to every indignity and 
to every exaction, without protest and without re- 
taliation. This plea is obviously the merest nonsense. 
At the most the worker is only bound not to hamper 
wantonly the work of war that is, not to take the 
offensive against capitalism where such action is likely 
to be hampering in its effects. If the capitalist is 
entitled to demand the maintenance of the status quo 
to this extent, clearly the workers are entitled to demand 
it absolutely. Labour is the aggressor in its war with 
capitalism ; and if Labour gives up for the moment 
the right of aggression, there is a double reason why 
capitalism should surrender its right of retaliation. 
The State, as it exists to-day, is a mere parody of the 
true expression of the national unity : Labour, in 
granting it allegiance, is offering it service by virtue 
of what it might be. The State, then, at least owes 
Labour the return of not serving out to it a double 
measure of kicks in exchange for its ha'pence. 

We shall have to deal with this whole question more 
thoroughly when we come to consider the actual 
experiences and actions of Labour in Great Britain 
during the present war. Here it is enough to lay down 
the general principle. Even if Labour decides to 
support a particular war, and thereby implicitly 
undertakes to do nothing to hamper the successful 
prosecution of it, this by no means implies uncon- 
ditional surrender on the part of the workers. They 


have the right to see that the status quo is maintained, 
they have a right to fair treatment by the State and 
by the employers, they have a right to be taken into 
the Government's confidence wherever they are closely 
concerned in short, they have rights as well as duties, 
and not least among their rights is the right to be 
treated as responsible beings. Moreover, they have 
the right, if these just claims are not granted, to use 
their economic power for the purpose of enforcing 

We return, then, to the point that the double allegi- 
ance of the worker exists no less in war time than in 
peace. It is his duty, as well as his right, to act as a 
citizen of the nation to which he belongs ; but it is 
also his duty, as well as his right, to see that the war is 
not used by his enemies for the purpose of exploiting 
still further the class of which he is a member. He 
has on his conscience this double system of rights and 
duties ; but the obligations that fall upon him are not 

But, it may be urged, this solution forgets inter- 
nationalism altogether. The worker's duty to his 
class, as it is here conceived, seems to be his duty to his 
class within the nation, not to the exploited of every 
nation. What has become of the fine old Marxian 
cry, " Workers of the world, unite ! You have nothing 
to lose but your chains, and a world to win " ? 

It is indeed true that the theory here advanced is 
not cosmopolitanism ; but it is, I maintain, internation- 
alism. That is to say, it does not deny the validity 
and the value of all national boundaries, traditions, 
and aspirations, or seek to confound all social sense in 
a vast, vague sentiment of the individual brotherhood 
of all men. It is based on nationality, and the brother- 


hood on which it rests is the brotherhood not of in- 
dividuals but of nations. It is truly international, in 
that it seeks to preserve nations and nationality while 
removing national antagonisms. 

The world will become a Socialist world when, and 
only when, the nations of the world become Socialist 
nations. The pure class-conscious cosmopolitan of 
some Socialist theory is as unnatural and as unreal as 
the pure " economic man " of the older economists. 
If the pure economic man of capitalist thought con- 
fronted in the real world the pure class-conscious 
proletarian of revolutionary thought, the class-war 
would soon be over. As things are, consciousness of 
class is at the most only one of two dominant ideas : 
and if it sets itself in opposition to the idea of nation- 
ality, it will, even if it scotches nationalism, only 
destroy itself in the process. The way to class- 
emancipation lies through national action. Inter- 
nationally, the workers must be always ready to hold 
out a helping hand from one country to another ; 
but the real battles will be fought out in each separate 
national group. This applies not only to political 
battles, but at least as much to industrial battles. 
The wage-system will end when National Guilds 
replace it. 



" IF war threatens to break out, it is the duty of the 
working class in the countries concerned ... to use 
every effort to prevent war. ..." This, as we have 
seen, was the policy prescribed to Labour organisations 
by the International Socialist Congress of 1907. Let 
us see how it worked out in actual practice last 

The Austrian Note to Servia was delivered on 
July 23, and the declaration of war followed on Saturday 
the 25th. During the week-end the Austrian Socialist 
deputies published a manifesto protesting against the 
war, and anti-war demonstrations were held in Berlin 
and elsewhere under the auspices of the German 
Socialist Party. The first body to move in Great 
Britain was the British Socialist Party, whose Executive 
passed on the 28th a resolution protesting against the 
Austrian Note and declaration of war, and congratulat- 
ing continental Socialists on their efforts to keep the 
peace. On the same day, protests against the war 
were passed by the French and German sections of the 
Internationa] Socialist Bureau, while the French 
Socialist deputies passed a resolution in which they 
urged the French Government " to act towards our 


ally, Russia, so that this Power, under the pretext of 
defending Slav interests, should not be allowed to 
satisfy aggressive designs. This effort corresponds 
with the German Socialists' demand for pacific pressure 
by their own Government on Austria, its ally." The 
next day the French General Confederation of Labour 
issued a manifesto against war. 

Meanwhile, a meeting of the International Socialist 
Bureau had been summoned at Brussels. At this 
meeting the French, German, and Austrian delegates 
alike declared that the workers in their countries were 
unanimously against war. It was decided that the 
International Socialist Congress, which was to have 
been held in Vienna late in August, should be held in 
Paris on August 9. It need hardly be said that, in 
the event, the Congress was not held. 

The first duty of the Bureau was to carry out the 
terms of the 1907 resolution. This it did by issuing 
the following declaration : 

In assembly of July 29 the International Socialist 
Bureau has heard declarations from representatives of 
all nations threatened by a world war, describing the 
political situation in their respective countries. 

With unanimous vote, the Bureau considers it an obliga- 
tion for the workers of all concerned nations not only to 
continue but even to strengthen their demonstrations 
against war in favour of peace and of a settlement of the 
Austro-Servian conflict by arbitration. 

The German and French workers will bring to bear on 
their Governments the most vigorous pressure in order 
that Germany may secure in Austria a moderating action, 
and in order that France may obtain from Russia an 
undertaking that she will not engage in the conflict. On 
their side the workers of Great Britain and Italy shall 
sustain these efforts with all the power at their command. 

The Congress urgently convoked in Paris will be the 


vigorous expression of the peaceful will of the workers of 
the whole world. 

As the Congress was never held, this was as far as 
international action carried the workers. We can now 
proceed to trace the course of events in Great Britain, 
which closely resembles their course in the other 
countries concerned. 

The first to issue a pronouncement were the Labour 
Members of Parliament, who, on July 30, passed 
unanimously the following resolution : 

That the Labour Party is gratified that Sir Edward 
Grey has taken steps to secure mediation in the dispute 
between Austria and Servia, and regrets that his proposal 
has not been accepted by the Powers concerned ; it hopes, 
however, that on no account will this country be dragged 
into the European conflict in which, as the Prime Minister 
has stated, we have no direct or indirect interest, and the 
Party calls upon all Labour organisations in the country 
to watch events vigilantly so as to oppose, if need be, in 
the most effective way any action which may involve us 
in war. 

Two days later, on the day when the assassination 
of Jaures became known, the British Section of the 
International Socialist Bureau issued its manifesto in 
accordance with the decisions of the International. 


The long-threatened European war is now upon us. 
For more than 100 years no such danger has confronted 
civilisation. It is for you to take full account of the 
desperate situation and to act promptly and vigorously 
in the interest of peace. You have never been consulted 
about the war. 

Whatever may be the rights and wrongs of the sudden, 
crushing attack made by the militarist Empire of Austria 


upon Servia, it is certain that the workers of all countries 
likely to be drawn into the conflict must strain every nerve 
to prevent their Governments from committing them to 

Everywhere Socialists and the organised forces of 
Labour are taking this course. Everywhere vehement 
protests are made against the greed and intrigues of 
militarists and armament-mongers. 

We call upon you to do the same here in Great Britain 
upon an even more impressive scale. Hold vast demonstra- 
tions against war in every industrial centre. Compel those 
of the governing class and their Press who are eager to commit 
you to co-operate with Russian despotism to keep silence and 
respect the decision of the overwhelming majority of the people, 
who will have neither part nor lot in such infamy. The 
success of Russia at the present day would be a curse to the 

There is no time to lose. Already, by secret agreements 
and understandings, of which the democracies of the 
civilised world know only by rumour, steps are being 
taken which may fling us all into the fray. 

Workers, stand together therefore for peace ! Combine 
and conquer the militarist enemy and the self-seeking 
Imperialists to-day, once and for all. 

Men and women of Britain, you have now an un- 
exampled opportunity of rendering a magnificent service 
to humanity, and to the world ! 

Proclaim that for you the days of plunder and butchery 
have gone by ; send messages of peace and fraternity to 
your fellows who have less liberty than you. Down with 
class rule. Down with the rule of brute force. Down 
with war. Up with the peaceful rule of the people. 

(Signed on behalf of the British Section of the Inter- 
national Socialist Bureau.) 


Thus on August I the bodies affiliated to the 

1 Italics mine. 


International, including not only the Independent 
Labour Party, the British Socialist Party, and the 
Fabian Society, but also the Labour Party, were 
decisively against war and against the Russian alliance. 
The next day, Sunday, August 2, a great anti-war 
meeting was held in Trafalgar Square under the auspices 
of the British Section. Among the speakers were 
Mr. Keir Hardie, Mr. Arthur Henderson, Mr. Will 
Thorne, and Mr. Lansbury. The following resolution 
was carried with enthusiasm by a crowded meeting 
representative of all sections of the working-class 
movement : 

That this demonstration, representing the organised 
workers and citizens of London, views with serious alarm 
the prospects of a European war, into which every European 
Power will be dragged owing to secret alliances and under- 
standings which in their origin were never sanctioned by 
the nations, nor are even now communicated to them ; 
we stand by the efforts of the International Working-Class 
Movement to unite the workers of the nations concerned 
in their efforts to prevent their Governments from entering 
upon war, as expressed in the resolution passed by the 
International Socialist Bureau ; we protest against any 
step being taken by the Government of this country to support 
Russia, either directly or in consequence of any understanding 
with France, as being not only offensive to the political tradi- 
tions of the country but disastrous to Europe, and declare 
that as we have no interest, direct or indirect, in the threatened 
quarrels which may result from the action of Austria in 
Servia, the Government of Great Britain should rigidly 
decline to engage in war, but should confine itself to efforts to 
bring about peace as speedily as possible. 1 

This was on Sunday : on the Monday followed the 
German threat to Belgium and Sir Edward Grey's 

1 Italics mine. 


speech in the House of Commons. In the debate Mr. 
Ramsay MacDonald made his last pronouncement as 
leader of the Labour Party. 

" Whatever may be said about us," he said, " we shall 
say that this country ought to have remained neutral, 
because in our deepest hearts we believe that is right, 
and that alone is consistent with the honour of the country 
and the traditions of the party now in office." 

On the same day Mr. Will Crooks gained the 
distinction of being the first member of the Labour 
Party to declare for war. The day after, Great Britain 
was actually at war with Germany. 

The declaration of war at once changed the situation. 
The first part of the policy recommended by the 
International had been tried in vain : Labour had 
failed to prevent war. The important question that 
now faced the workers was the attitude they ought to 
adopt in war time. Were they " to intervene to bring 
the war promptly to an end," and, if so, how ? And 
were they " to use the economic and political crisis 
created by the war to rouse the populace from its 
slumbers, and to hasten the fall of capitalist domina- 
tion " ? 

Labour's first move was in the direction of safeguard- 
ing its economic interests. Already, before the declara- 
tion of war, the Joint Board of the Labour Party, the 
Trades Union Congress, and the General Federation of 
Trade Unions had summoned a representative confer- 
ence of the most important working-class bodies for 
the purpose of forming a National Labour Peace 
Emergency Committee, presumably for the purpose 
of carrying on agitation against British intervention. 
The declaration of war changed the character of this 
conference, which met on August 6. The suggested 


peace campaign was abandoned, and instead of a 
" peace committee " Labour formed the " War 
Emergency Workers' National Committee," of which 
the duty was to be the safeguarding of Labour interests. 
As we shall have much to say of this Committee in a 
later chapter, we need here only notice its formation. 
Up to this point, Labour was still keeping to the spirit 
of the International resolution, in at least one respect, 
by concentrating on its own peculiar problems. 

It is, however, interesting to notice that, even when 
the declaration of war was inevitable, some of the 
promoters of the Labour conference had not given up 
the idea of a Peace Committee. Mr. Arthur Henderson, 
interviewed in the Daily Citizen of August 5, said of 
the work of the proposed committee : " One important 
thing will be to come to a decision to take all necessary 
steps for the promotion of an early and permanent 
peace." In the same interview he laid stress on the 
economic collapse which might be expected to follow 
the outbreak of war, and in the need for a strong body 
to serve as a mouthpiece of the claims of Labour. 

The resolutions passed at the great Labour confer- 
ence on August 5 had, in fact, no reference to the ethics 
of the war or to the need for peace. The conference 
dealt solely with the economic situation caused by the 
war and adopted a series of recommendations intended 
to assist the workers in facing the industrial crisis. 
This concentration on the work of relief was endorsed 
the following day by a resolution adopted by the 
Executive Committee of the Labour Party. 1 This 

1 The Executive Committee of the Labour Party is a different 
body from the party meeting of Labour M. P. 's. The Labour Party 
is a federation of Trade Unions and Socialist bodies, governed by 
an Executive Committee and represented in Parliament by the 
Labour members, who, as we shall see, took a rather different line. 


resolution was published on August 7 with the following 
covering letter : 

DEAR SIR We beg to inform you that a special meeting 
of the National Executive of the Labour Party was held 
on August 5 and 6 to consider the European crisis, when 
it was decided to forward to each of the affiliated organisa- 
tions the following resolutions : 

" That the conflict between the nations of Europe in 
which this country is involved is owing to Foreign Ministers 
pursuing diplomatic policies for the purpose of maintaining 
a balance of power ; that our own national policy of 
understandings with France and Russia only, was bound 
to increase the power of Russia both in Europe and Asia, 
and to endanger good relations with Germany. 

" That Sir Edward Grey, as proved by the facts which 
he gave to the House of Commons, committed, without 
the knowledge of our people, the honour of the country 
to supporting France in the event of any war in which she 
was seriously involved, and gave definite assurances of 
support before the House of Commons had any chance of 
considering the matter. 

" That the Labour movement reiterates the fact that 
it has opposed the policy which has produced the war, 
and that its duty is now to secure peace at the earliest 
possible moment on such conditions as will provide the 
best opportunities for the re-establishment of amicable 
feelings between the workers of Europe. 

" That without in any way receding from the position 
that the Labour movement has taken in opposition to our 
engaging in a European war, the executive of the party 
advises that, while watching for the earliest opportunity 
for taking effective action in the interests of peace and the 
re-establishment of good feeling between the workers of 
the European nations, all Labour and Socialist organisa- 
tions should concentrate their energies meantime upon the 
task of carrying out the resolutions passed at the Conference 
of Labour organisations held at the House of Commons 
on August 5, detailing measures to be taken to mitigate 


the destitution which will inevitably overtake our working 
people while the state of war lasts." 

Your attention is specially called to Clause 3 of the 
attached resolutions, agreed upon at the Labour and 
Socialist Emergency Conference. Citizen committees are 
being formed in county and urban areas, and every effort 
should be made to secure a fair and adequate representation 
of Labour, including woman, upon these committees. We 
also urge the great importance of all Labour organisations 
giving every possible assistance in the relief work organised 
by these citizen committees. Yours very sincerely, 

W. C. ANDERSON, Chairman. 

On the same day as the Labour Party Executive 
met the Labour members held their weekly meeting, 
at the close of which the announcement was made that 
Mr. Ramsay MacDonald had resigned the leadership 
of the Party, and that, for the time being, Mr. Arthur 
Henderson would take his place. 

The cause of Mr. MacDonald's retirement was given 
as " disagreement with some of his colleagues on 
certain aspects of the European crisis." Already the 
forces of Labour were becoming divided : some wished 
to sink all differences in the " national danger," while 
others thought that the working-class movement 
should continue to take an independent line. 

It is important to understand that this cleavage 
did not coincide with the division between those who 
thought the war ought to be supported and those who 
thought it should still be opposed. Speaking at 
Leicester the day after his resignation, Mr. MacDonald 
made his position quite clear. He dwelt on the share 
which British foreign policy had had in bringing about 
the war. 


" We are not fighting for the independence of Belgium," 
he said. " We are fighting because we are in the Triple 
Entente ; because the policy of the Foreign Office for a 
number of years has been anti-German, and because that 
policy has been conducted by secret diplomacy on the 
lines of creating alliances in order to preserve the balance 
of power. We are fighting because we have got prejudices 
against very strong commercial rivals." 

Mr. MacDonald continued with a plea for good 
feeling towards Germany, and for frank recognition of 
her national greatness. " But," he said, " whatever 
our view may be on the origin of the war we must go 
through with it." A month later, on September n, 
Mr. MacDonald went even further. The following 
letter from him was read at a recruiting meeting in 
Leicester : 

MY DEAR MR. MAYOR I am very sorry indeed that I 
cannot be with you on Friday. My opinions regarding 
the causes of the war are pretty well known, except in so 
far as they have been misrepresented, but we are in it. 
It will work itself out now. Might and spirit will win, 
and incalculable political and social consequences will 
follow upon victory. 

Victory, therefore, must be ours. England is not 
played out. Her mission is not accomplished. She can, 
if she would, take the place of esteemed honour among 
the democracies of the world, and if peace is to come with 
healing on her wings, the democracies of Europe must be 
her guardians. There should be no doubt about that. 

Well, we cannot go back, nor can we turn to the right 
or to the left. We must go straight through. History 
will, in due time, apportion the praise and the blame, but 
the young men of the country must, for the moment, 
settle the immediate issue of victory. Let them do it in 
the spirit of the brave men who have crowned our country 
with honour in the times that are gone. Whoever may be 
in the wrong, men so inspired will be in the right. The 


quarrel was not of the people, but the end of it will be the 
lives and liberties of the people. 

Should an opportunity arise to enable me to appeal to 
the pure love of country which I know is a precious 
sentiment in all our hearts, keeping it clear of thoughts 
which I believe to be alien to real patriotism I shall 
gladly take that opportunity. If need be I shall make it 
for myself. I want the serious men of the Trade Union, 
the Brotherhood, and similar movements to face their 
duty. To such men it is enough to say " England has 
need of you " ; to say it in the right way. They will 
gather to her aid. They will protect her, and when the 
war is over they will see to it that the policies and condi- 
tions that make it will go like the mists of a plague and 
the shadows of a pestilence. Yours very sincerely, 


It is clear then that what caused Mr. MacDonald 
to resign was not his refusal to accept the fact of war 
and the responsibility involved in it, but his desire 
to preserve a free hand in criticism, to be free to state 
the case against British diplomacy and to criticise the 
Government. Already the cry of national solidarity 
was being used to stifle criticism, and there were some 
among the working-class leaders who, in the first flush 
of their new-found patriotism, were inclined to accept 
the muzzle that capitalism was not slow to thrust 
upon their mouths. 

Mr. MacDonald's resignation and other indications 
made it plain that the majority of the Parliamentary 
Labour Party had thrown in their lot with the war 
and the Government. The Labour Party Executive, 
on the other hand, and the Workers' Emergency 
Committee had urged concentration on relief work, 
and had said nothing about the war as such. The 
division of opinion was first publicly proclaimed when 


the National Administrative Council of the Independent 
Labour Party, which is the largest Socialist society in 
the country, launched its manifesto on August 13. 
This document must be quoted in part, as it is the 
only authoritative expression of opinion against the 
war that this country has produced. It begins with 
a long denunciation of British foreign policy, of the 
Triple Entente, of the doctrine of the balance of power, 
and of the race of armaments. It continues with an 
attack on secret diplomacy, and points out the horror 
and waste that war involves. It then ends by reaffirm- 
ing its faith in internationalism and Socialism in the 
following terms : 

The war conflagration envelops Europe : up to the 
last moment we laboured to prevent the blaze. The 
nation must now watch for the first opportunity for 
effective intervention. 

As for the future, we must begin to prepare our minds 
for the difficult and dangerous complications that will 
arise at the conclusion of the war. 

The people must everywhere resist such territorial 
aggression and national abasement as will pave the way 
for fresh wars ; and throughout Europe the workers 
must press for frank and honest diplomatic policies, con- 
trolled by themselves, for the suppression of militarism 
and the establishment of the united states of Europe, 
thereby advancing toward the world's peace. Unless 
these steps are taken Europe, after the present calamity, 
will be still more subject to the domination of militarism, 
and increasingly liable to be drenched with blood. 

We are told that international Socialism is dead, that 
all our hopes and ideals are wrecked by the fire and pestil- 
ence of European war. It is not true. 

Out of the darkness and the depth we hail our working- 
class comrades of every land. Across the roar of guns, 
we send sympathy and greeting to the German Socialists. 



They have laboured unceasingly to promote good relations 
with Britain, as we with Germany. They are no enemies 
of ours but faithful friends. 

In forcing this appalling crime upon the nations, it is 
the rulers, the diplomats, the militarists who have sealed 
their doom. In tears of blood and bitterness the greater 
democracy will be born. With steadfast faith we greet 
the future : our cause is holy and imperishable, and the 
labour of our hands has not been in vain. 

Long live Freedom and Fraternity ! Long live Inter- 
national Socialism ! 

The Independent Labour Party was the only 
Socialist body that took a definite line against the war. 
The second large Socialist society, the British Socialist 
Party, decided, through its executive, to support the 
war, though subsequent conferences of the members 
have made it more than doubtful whether this support 
reflected the view of the rank and file. The Fabian 
Society, true to its traditions, made no pronouncement, 
and confined itself to taking an active part in suggesting 
measures for the relief of distress. The Trade Unions, 
too, remained for a time silent : to their action in the 
crisis we shall refer later. 

Through the latter half of August the Labour bodies 
were mainly occupied in trying to adjust themselves 
to the new economic situation. It was not until the 
end of the month that any important new step was 
taken in defining the Labour attitude to the war. 
The Government and the Opposition together, under 
the terms of the party truce, decided to initiate a 
parliamentary recruiting campaign, and the Labour 
members were invited to take part. The majority of 
them accepted this invitation, and it became necessary, 
if the Party was to act as a whole, that the endorsement 
of the National Executive of the Labour Party should 


be obtained. An emergency meeting of the National 
Executive was held on August 29, and the following 
resolution was agreed to, though it is clear that there 
was considerable difference of opinion. The terms of 
the resolution seem to imply that the Labour members 
had already practically committed the Party. 

That in view of the serious situation created by the 
European war the executive committee of the Labour 
Party agrees with the policy of the ^Parliamentary party 
in joining in the campaign to strengthen the British Army, 
and agrees to place the central office organisation at the 
disposal of the campaign, and further recommends the 
affiliated bodies to give all possible local support. 

Mr. Arthur Henderson, who was soon afterwards 
made a Privy Councillor, was accordingly appointed, 
together with the Prime Minister and Mr. Bonar Law, 
as a President of the Parliamentary Recruiting Com- 
mittee, while Mr. James Parker, Mr. F. W. Goldstone, 
and Mr. J. Pointer were also placed on the Committee. 

This decision naturally gave rise to considerable 
discussion, opposition to participation in an inter- 
party recruiting campaign being by no means confined 
to those who were opposed to the war. It was widely 
held, even among those who thought that Labour 
ought to appeal for recruits, that it would be better for 
the Labour bodies either to run a separate recruiting 
campaign of their own, or to leave sections and in- 
dividuals to take action on their own responsibility. 
There were many who held that recruiting was no 
business of Labour as such, and still more who felt 
unable to appear on the same platform with members 
of capitalist parties. 

The duty of Labour, these dissentients held, was to 
safeguard the interests of the workers. A capitalist 


Government could not be expected all of a sudden to 
change its spots, and there would therefore be need 
for continual vigilance and criticism not only in Parlia- 
ment, but more especially up and down the country. 
It was felt by many that such criticism would be 
impossible from a common platform, and that the 
working class would only stultify itself by sinking its 
identity. A certain number of the Labour M.P.'s, 
including the I.L.P. members, and a greater proportion 
of Labour leaders outside Parliament, have acted in 
accordance with this view. 

It does indeed seem absurd to suppose that the 
class-struggle can be altogether eclipsed by any national 
crisis. A national crisis means that the nation has 
many difficult problems to face, and a capitalist 
Government, left to itself, is hardly likely to face them 
in a manner agreeable to the workers. Surely at all 
costs the forces of Labour should have preserved their 
identity : but participation in an inter-party recruiting 
campaign was hardly the best way of doing this. Still 
less so, it would seem, is participation in a Coalition 
Cabinet : yet to this, too, Labour has at last come. 1 

The decision of the Parliamentary Labour Party, 
however, mattered the less in this case, as Parliament 
is clearly not an important body in time of war. 
Despite the immense mass of ill-digested legislation 
which the war has produced, it is nonsense to pretend 
that Parliament has gained in prestige during the last 
six months. Emergency legislation has not, in fact, 
emanated from Parliament at all : Parliament has 

1 When Mr. Henderson was invited to join the Coalition Govern- 
ment, he placed the proposal before a meeting of Labour members, 
which actually rejected it. It was subsequently carried by a 
majority at a joint meeting with the Executive of the Labour 


abrogated in favour of the Cabinet. The result has 
been that, more nakedly than ever, the course of 
legislation has been determined by an open conflict 
of economic forces. The Cabinet has proposed ; the 
final decision has depended on the amount of pressure 
which conflicting interests have been able to apply. 
Thus, the Stock Exchange and the bankers at once 
secured full protection : Labour, on the other hand, 
having foolishly begun by signing away its economic 
power, has only gained small concessions after infinite 
trouble and at the cost of receding from its original 

What really matters to Labour, in times of war no 
less than of peace, is to keep its economic power 
undiminished. This means that the industrial organ- 
isation must be kept in repair, and that there must be 
no slackening of effort in the industrial field. Having 
sketched the history of Labour's changing attitude to 
the war itself, more especially in the political sphere, 
I come now to the action taken by Labour on the 
industrial field. 

There are two bodies which attempt to co-ordinate 
the work of the Trade Unions in the economic sphere, 
the Trades Union Congress, which has over three million 
members in its affiliated organisations, and the General 
Federation of Trade Unions, which has about one 
million, in most cases also affiliated to the Trades Union 
Congress. Only the second of these is affiliated to the 
International Federation of Trade Unions. The Trades 
Union Congress is administered by a Parliamentary 
Committee, and the General Federation by a Manage- 
ment Committee. Both these Committees have issued 
manifestos on the war. 

The manifesto of the Management Committee of 


the General Federation of Trade Unions is important 
because that body is in touch with the international 
Trade Union movement. It begins by denning its 
attitude to the war as such, and concludes that " the 
responsibility for the war does not rest upon the 
policy or conduct of Great Britain." 

Having declared itself convinced of the justice of 
the war, it proceeds to discuss the economic problems 
that arise out of it. 

Not less imperative than the problems of national 
defence are those problems which affect the political and 
economic life of the State during the war, and which will 
continue to affect it long after the war is over. The con- 
sideration of these does not imply hostility or lack of 
patriotism : it simply indicates foresight, and a desire to 
turn the extraordinary circumstances of the war to national 

The manifesto goes on to point out the significance 
of the newly assumed Government control of transport 
and of the fixing of maximum food prices : " The 
impossibilities of years became actualities in an hour 
when the alternative was national disaster." It 
criticises the Government's relief measures as utterly 
inadequate, demands reasonable subsistence wages 
for soldiers and sailors and their dependents, useful 
work for the workless, and the co - ordination of 
charitable funds. It presses especially for Government 
aid to the Trade Unions which are affected adversely 
by the crisis. In short, it makes some attempt to 
sketch an industrial programme for Labour during the 
war, identical in most respects with the policy pursued 
by the War Emergency : Workers' Committee, with 
which I deal in a later chapter. At the same time, 
while it emphasises its connection with the Interna- 


tional, and the fact that " it is, and always has been, 
on the side of international as well as industrial peace," 
it supports the war, and pronounces Great Britain 
blameless in a far less uncertain manner than any other 
Labour manifesto had then dared to do. 

The larger industrial body, the Trades Union Con- 
gress, as represented, or possibly as misrepresented, 
through its Parliamentary Committee, issued its 
" Manifesto to the Trade Unionists of the Country " 
at the beginning of September. This document must 
be quoted in full. 

GENTLEMEN The Trade Union Congress Parliamentary 
Committee, at their meeting held yesterday, had under 
consideration the serious position created by the European 
war and the duty which Trade Unionists, in common with 
the community in general, owe to themselves and the 
country of which they are citizens. 

They were especially gratified at the manner in which 
the Labour Party in the House of Commons had responded 
to the appeal made to all political parties to give their 
co-operation in securing the enlistment of men to defend 
the interests of their country, and heartily endorse the 
appointment upon the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee 
of four members of the party, and the placing of the 
services of the national agent at the disposal of that com- 
mittee to assist in carrying through its secretarial work. 

The Parliamentary Committee are convinced that one 
important factor in the present European struggle has to 
be borne in mind, so far as our own country is concerned 
namely, that in the event of the voluntary system of 
military service failing the country in this its time of need, 
the demand for a national system of compulsory military 
service will not only be made with redoubled vigour, but 
may prove to be so persistent and strong as to become 
irresistible. The prospect of having to face conscription, 
with its permanent and heavy burden upon the financial 
resources of the country, and its equally burdensome effect 


upon nearly the whole of its industries, should in itself 
stimulate the manhood of the nation to come forward in 
its defence, and thereby demonstrate to the world that a 
free people can rise to the supreme heights of a great 
sacrifice without the whip of conscription. 

Another factor to be remembered in this crisis of our 
nation's history, and most important of all so far as Trade 
Unionists and Labour in general are concerned, is the fact 
that upon the result of the struggle in which this country 
is now engaged rest the preservation and maintenance of 
free and unfettered democratic government, which in its 
international relationships has in the past been recognised, 
and must unquestionably in the future prove to be the 
best guarantee for the preservation of the peace of the 

The mere contemplation of the overbearing and brutal 
methods to which people have to submit under a govern- 
ment controlled by a military autocracy living, as it 
were, continuously under the threat and shadow of war 
should be sufficient to arouse the enthusiasm of the 
nation in resisting any attempt to impose similar con- 
ditions upon countries at present free from military 

But if men have a duty to perform in the common interest 
of the State, equally the State owes a duty to those of its 
citizens who are prepared and readily prepared to 
make sacrifices in its defence and for the maintenance of 
its honour. Citizens called upon voluntarily to leave 
their employment and their homes for the purpose of under- 
taking military duties have a right to receive at the hands 
of the State a reasonable and assured recompense, not so 
much for themselves as for those who are dependent upon 
them, and no single member of the community would do 
otherwise than uphold a Government which in such an 
important and vital matter took a liberal and even generous 
view of its responsibilities toward those citizens who come 
forward to assist in the defence of their country. 

We respectfully commend this suggestion to the favour- 
able consideration of the Government of the day. 


Long life to the free institutions of all democratically- 
governed countries ! 

Yours faithfully, the Parliamentary Committee, 


(Chairman). J. W. OGDEN. 


(Vice-Chairman). A. SMITH. 




W. MATKIN. (Secretary). 

Thus, the Trades Union Congress, like the General 
Federation of Trade Unions, pronounces unhesitatingly 
in favour of the war, without even the reservations 
contained in every manifesto issued by the various 
Socialist bodies. It whole - heartedly endorses the 
Labour participation in the Parliamentary Recruiting 
Committee, and seems undisturbed by economic con- 

This manifesto, it will be noticed, deals only with 
recruiting. We have now to sketch the action taken 
by the Parliamentary Committee and by the Trade 
Unions in their own sphere of industrial activity. 

The Trades Union Congress was to have been held 
at Portsmouth in September ; but on August 13 the 
Parliamentary Committee issued a notice that it was 
" postponed for a short time." In fact, it was can- 
celled altogether. That is to say, just when Labour 
problems of every sort were bound to become acute, 
the one representative body co-ordinating the Trade 
Union forces was abolished by order of the Trade 
Union leaders themselves. 

Doubtless, the reason advanced was that a still 


more representative body, in which the political and 
the industrial sides of the movement were co-ordinated, 
had been constituted specially to deal with the War 
Emergency. Doubtless, too, it was feared that the 
Congress might fall out about the war, and so split the 
movement just when unity was essential. But neither 
of these reasons ought to have weighed against the 
paramount need to keep the rank and file awake to 
industrial problems. Though the War Emergency : 
Workers' National Committee covers a wider field 
than the Trades Union Congress, it is not a more 
representative body : it is a self-appointed council of 
leaders, and not a democratically chosen body of 
delegates representing the rank and file. Such a 
Congress ought to have been summoned, if not last 
September, at any rate as soon as possible, to formulate 
a common policy on such questions as overtime, Trade 
Union regulations, and the like. These are peculiarly 
Trade Union problems with which the Congress would 
have been far better fitted to deal than a composite 
body like the Workers' National Committee. As 
Mr. Mellor and myself wrote, with only too much 
foresight, in the Daily Herald of August 20 : 

At any moment the Government and the capitalists 
whom they represent will be able to abrogate all the laws 
on the plea of " national emergency." If Labour continues 
throughout the war to allow gains won by industrial 
warfare in times of international peace to be filched from 
it, it is laying up a store of misery and hardship in the 
future. All the old battles will have to be fought over 
again, and, instead of being further on the road to emanci- 
pation, Labour will have lost ground. 

None the less, the Congress was cancelled, and the 
pledge that it should be held at the earliest possible 


moment was never redeemed. 1 Much excellent work 
has been done, as we shall see, by the Workers' National 
Committee ; but the rank and file of the Unions have 
never been consulted or invited to take counsel together. 
A Trades Union Congress is, however, to be held in 
September 1915, and it is to be hoped that here at 
last the rank and file will be given a chance of formulat- 
ing the policy they desire the leaders to pursue. The 
character of the demonstrations in the big industrial 
centres convened by the Workers' National Committee 
indicates that they are likely to press for a less acqui- 
escent policy. It may, however, well be the case that 
months of irritant tactics on the part of the employers 
and the Government have changed their temper, and 
that, had they been consulted last August, they would 
have taken much the same line as their leaders took 
in their name. 

Be that as it may, the declaration of war was the 
signal for an " industrial truce." The important 
strikes which were in progress when war broke out 
were quickly settled, generally without consultation 
of the rank and file. The two strikes of agricultural 
labourers in North Essex and in Herefordshire were 
settled on August 4 by the granting of the men's terms : 
a few days later the impending lock-out covering the 
whole Scottish coalfield was averted by the decision 
of the owners to withdraw temporarily their claim 
for a reduction of wages, without prejudice to their 

1 This scrapping of national Labour machinery has not been 
confined to the Trades Union Congress. Early in the war, the 
Daily Herald was forced to become a weekly, and in June the Daily 
Citizen, in which hundreds of thousands of pounds of Trade Union 
money had been sunk, came to an inglorious end. Though the 
Citizen never succeeded in expressing the true spirit of the Labour 
movement, the loss is a calamity. It is to be hoped that the Herald 
will be able again to become a daily later on. 


action in the future. The general strike in the building 
trades at Oxford was settled by a reference to arbitra- 
tion, while in the important and difficult dispute between 
the Mersey Docks Board and its employees work was 
resumed without a settlement, the question at issue 
being held over till the end of the war. Finally, the 
long lock-out in the London building industry was 
settled without consultation of the men during the 
second week in August, the questions still in dispute 
being referred to the National Conciliation Board. Of 
the conflicts actually in progress, only in a few in- 
significant cases was there no immediate settlement. 

Not only were actual disputes terminated : impend- 
ing forward movements were also cancelled. 

A special conference, representing the Parliamentary 
Committee of the Trades Union Congress, the Manage- 
ment Committee of the General Federation of Trade 
Unions, and the Executive Committee of the Labour 
Party met on August 24 and passed the following 
among other recommendations : 

That an immediate effort be made to terminate all 
existing trade disputes, whether strikes or lock-outs, and 
whenever new points of difficulty arise during the war 
period a serious attempt should be made by all concerned 
to reach an amicable settlement before resorting to a 
strike or lock-out. 

The other resolutions were in the nature of requests 
for Government action for the prevention of unemploy- 
ment by the stopping of overtime, and for the provision 
of adequate relief funds to meet the unemployment 
that could not be avoided. To these requests I shall 
recur in a subsequent chapter : the point I desire to 
make here is that the industrial truce was declared, 
not conditionally on the granting of these demands, 


but absolutely without conditions. The demands were 
only made subsequently in the form of requests, with 
no sanction of economic power behind them. 

Moreover, many of the Unions issued special circulars 
to their branches and passed Executive resolutions 
deprecating strikes in war time. On all hands, an 
industrial truce was declared, on the initiative more 
of the men than of the employers. The number of 
new industrial disputes fell from 99 in July 1914 to 
15 in August, as compared with 109 and 102 in 1913. 
During the first seven months of 1914 there were 836 
disputes, involving 423,000 workers : during the last 
five months there were only 137, involving only 23,000, 
and at the end of December there were only 10 very 
small disputes in progress. 

Moreover, the railwaymen who had just put forward 
a national programme, and who were negotiating with 
the Companies for an improved scheme of conciliation, 
accepted or rather their Executive accepted in their 
name a temporary continuation of the old unsatis- 
factory conciliation scheme, and consented to drop the 
National Programme for the period of the war. The 
autumn of 1914, which had seemed likely to be a 
period of great industrial unrest, was, in fact, a period 
of almost unbroken tranquillity. 

A glance at the records of the War Emergency : 
Workers' Committee will show that this was by no 
means because there was a complete absence of dis- 
content. Many employers, mostly in the smaller 
trades and in commerce, took advantage of the situation 
to reduce salaries or staffs, while the Committee had 
continually to protest against the unfair treatment of 
the workers by contractors in the service of the Govern- 
ment. Hut-building and clothing scandals were par- 


ticularly numerous, and a Trade Union official went 
so far as to say that " if there is a contractor who is 
particularly infamous as a sweater, the War Office 
can be trusted to give him a large order." 

These cases are, however, independent of the 
situation in the staple industries, in which the em- 
ployers were only too glad for the most part to accept 
the industrial truce. For, as the exploited class, 
Labour is necessarily the aggressor hi the war with 
capitalism, and an industrial truce therefore means, 
as a rule, that the employer gets what he wants the 
preservation of the status quo. As things turned out, 
he got in this instance a great deal more ; for hi many 
important branches of industry the effect of the war 
was an unexpectedly large increase in profits, while, 
on the other hand, as we shall see, the growth of prices 
left the workers far worse off than they had been 
before the war. 

As I shall explain in a later chapter, these causes 
led, early in 1915, to a partial resumption of industrial 
hostilities. I am here concerned only with Labour's 
action at the beginning of the war. How far was 
Labour right in declaring an industrial truce last 
August ? 

I gave, in the last chapter, a general view of the 
rights and duties of Labour in time of war. We have 
now to ask how far the actual course pursued last July 
was in accordance with the principles there laid down. 

What is most evident is that, economically as well 
as politically, Labour was taken altogether by surprise. 
If the deliberations of the International had given the 
workers but doubtful guidance for their political 
action in the crisis, there had been still less an attempt 
to forecast the industrial situation that would be 


created or the action that Labour ought to pursue. 
We have already noticed the ambiguity of the advice 
given by the International on this point : and it is 
clear that the recommendations there made were not 
based on any intelligent forecast of the probable 
position. Industrially, as well as politically, the mind 
of the workers was in a state of bewilderment when 
war broke out. 

The supremely important decision as to Labour's 
industrial policy was therefore taken on the impulse 
of the moment, without much forethought or fore- 
sight. For the most part the Unions contented them- 
selves with declaring an industrial truce without any 
attempt to lay down the conditions of the truce. They 
made no provision for taking action in the event of an 
undue inflation of either profits or prices, and still 
less did they attempt to obtain concessions in return 
for the concessions they themselves were making. 
They did not go to the Government and the employers 
and say, " If you wish us to keep the peace these are 
our terms," though this was the course pursued by the 
various capitalist groups whose interests were affected 
by the war. They said, " We will keep the peace," 
and then went to the Government cap in hand. 

It is, of course, easy to prophesy after the event, 
and we can readily see now that the effect of this 
policy has been, in the long run, to create industrial 
disturbance rather than to prevent it. A firm stand 
at the outset might well have modified profoundly 
the Government's industrial policy. It is, however, 
not difficult to find extenuating circumstances. The 
Labour leaders had no idea what was going to happen : 
they feared immense dislocation of employment and 
a consequent weakening of economic power. Some of 


them, no doubt, feared that an attempt to stand up to 
the Government might end in disastrous defeat for 

In the main, however, they were certainly actuated 
much less by this fear than by an instinctive, if mis- 
taken, idea of patriotism. They desired to see the 
country united, and they were prepared to make 
concessions in order to secure unity. In their haste 
they unfortunately made their concessions without 
first obtaining corresponding concessions from the 
other side. This initial abdication is largely responsible 
for subsequent bickerings, and is a lamentable chapter 
in the history of British Trade Unionism. 

What, then, had they a right to demand ? I do 
not suggest that they ought to have conducted a great 
forward movement for better conditions or for the 
overthrow of capitalism. But surely they should have 
demanded, and insisted on, guarantees that their 
economic position would not be worsened by the war, 
that prices would be kept down, or, as an alternative, 
wages raised, and that the Trade Unions would be 
taken into the Government's confidence and used as 
the official means of dealing with the problems that 
arose in connection with the workers. Had they 
insisted on this last demand, the neglect and con- 
tumely which have since been poured upon the Unions 
by the Government would have been impossible. 

Moreover, there is another concession which Labour 
has clearly the right to demand as the price of its 
co-operation. No sooner was war declared than 
private capitalism was found inadequate for its conduct, 
and the State was forced to step in either to save the 
capitalists or to secure efficient service. Where such 
extensions of State interference are to the advantage 


of Labour, the workers have surely a right to demand 
that capitalist control shall not be restored intact at 
the end of the war. 

I have given reasons for thinking the entry of Labour 
into the inter -party recruiting campaign wrong in 
any case ; but the decision to take part in it should 
at least have been combined with insistence on these 
demands and on the right to urge them from the inter- 
party platforms. This, I believe, was the policy 
recommended by the British Socialist Party. 

The industrial truce, then, was declared uncon- 
ditionally. But strikes were not the only form of 
Labour activity that the war brought to a standstill. 
Last summer the Trade Unions were engaged on 
several important schemes for setting their own house 
in order. Most of these schemes seem to be in abey- 
ance, at least for the period of the war, though an 
important fusion of Unions in the clothing industry 
has been accomplished, and the engineering and 
shipbuilding Unions have now resumed the attempt 
to formulate a scheme of closer unity. Two projects 
of the greatest importance must be mentioned here 
the Triple Alliance and the proposed transport and 
general labour amalgamation. 

Before the war meetings were being held for the 
elaboration of a policy of united action among miners, 
railwaymen, and transport workers, numbering not 
far short of a million and a half of organised workers. 
Nothing has been heard of this project since the war 
broke out, and, in view of the independent negotiations 
that have been carried on since by miners and railway- 
men, there seems to be a danger that nothing will 
come of it. It is probable that there are some among 
the men's leaders who would welcome its collapse, as 



they fear the revolutionary possibilities of such a 
movement ; but of this it is difficult to speak without 
very intimate inside knowledge. 

The second scheme is one for the fusion of all the 
very numerous competing, overlapping, and sectional 
Unions of transport workers and general labourers into 
a single great national organisation. Even before the 
war there were signs of a desire to side-track this 
proposal ; the effect of the war emergency seems to be 
that it is shelved altogether. There are of course 
difficulties in the way of carrying through such a 
scheme completely during the war ; 1 but it would 
at least be quite possible to use the war period for the 
formulation of a completely satisfactory scheme, and 
to bring into actual being as a temporary expedient 
a close type of federation which would make the 
actual amalgamation later on a mere matter of form. 

Even if it is only for the period of the war, the 
abandonment of these schemes is a calamity. It is 
clear that the restoration of normal industrial con- 
ditions at the " outbreak of peace " will be a difficult 
and a perilous business, in which Labour will need all 
its wits and all its strength. In this coming struggle 
the Triple Alliance of miners, railwaymen, and trans- 
port workers ought to have provided the nucleus of a 
united Labour army, round which the Unions in other 
industries could rally. The transport and general 
labour amalgamation, too, would be of the greatest 
importance in such a situation. The less skilled 
workers will have most intricate problems of their 
own to face at the close of the war, and it is of the 

1 For instance, the law demands a two-thirds majority of the 
whole membership for all Trade Union fusions. This it would in 
some cases be impossible to get owing to the absence of members 
at the war. 


greatest importance, both to themselves and to the 
skilled workers, that they should be strongly organised. 
If the present chaos of conflicting Unions still exists 
when peace returns, it will be almost impossible for 
them to present a united front to the capitalists. 
Labour should at all costs push on with its schemes 
for better organisation during the war, conscious that 
with peace will come its time of supreme trial. 

If, under the influence of a sort of war-panic, Labour 
has been careless of its industrial organisation at home, 
if the Trades Union Congress has been abandoned and 
amalgamation schemes postponed, what has happened 
to the international Trade Union organisation ? 

Of the International Federation of Trade Unions 
little has been heard since the outbreak of war. A 
letter written by the Secretary, C. Legien of Germany, 
on August 27 to Mr. Appleton, of the General Federa- 
tion of Trade Unions, was published in the October 
Federationist, together with Mr. Appleton's reply. 
Herr Legien expresses his determination to keep in 
touch with the Trade Unions, " at least in neutral 
countries," protests against the accusations of in- 
humanity made against the Germans, and asserts that 
the action of the Social Democrats in voting for the war 
credits " cannot by those in other lands be regarded as 
a reproach, if this fact is borne in mind, that Germany 
found itself at war with both Russia and France." 

" In this matter," he continues, " the Social Democratic 
Parties of other lands, which have greater Parliamentary 
influence than we, have done just the same. In any 
case, our decision cannot be so interpreted that we have 
abandoned the ideals of the international significance of 
the Labour movement." 

This, however, tells us little about international 


Trade Unionism. In fact, the only important move- 
ment in connection with the International Federation 
was made in February, when the representatives of the 
French General Confederation of Labour and the 
General Federation of Trade Unions met in London 
and sent a joint letter to Mr. Samuel Gompers, President 
of the American Federation of Labour, asking him to 
use his influence to secure the removal of the head- 
quarters of the International Federation of Trade 
Unions to a neutral country, preferably Switzerland. 
Mr. Gompers wrote to Herr Legien in this sense ; but 
up to the present there has been no result. A special 
conference has been summoned to Holland to consider 
the question ; but it seems doubtful if this will be 
at all representative. The allied nations are opposed 
to the conference, and urge immediate removal of the 
headquarters to Switzerland. So far at any rate as 
this country is concerned, the affairs of the International 
Federation of Trade Unions are for the time being 

Nor are there many signs of activity on the part 
of the International Federations in special industries 
whose headquarters are also, in the majority of cases, 
situated in Germany. The only exception is the 
International Transport Workers' Federation, whose 
Secretary, Herr Jochade, has kept regularly hi touch 
with Great Britain. An interesting account of his 
views appeared in the Federationist for December 1914. 

At the outbreak of war the International Transport 
Workers' Federation was about to call a conference 
consisting of one delegate from each nation to draw up 
a revised constitution. This, Herr Jochade says, will be 
done as soon as peace is restored. The following further 
extract from the Federationist is of especial interest : 


Jochade, or one of his colleagues, says that it was the 
impression that the international machinery should have 
been used to attempt to prevent the present awful cata- 
strophe, but states that the International Federation exists 
expressly for economic rather than political action. There 
is a comment to the effect that we had better honestly 
state that our international movement had not the political, 
and even less the Trade Union, influence to prevent the 
war, for which all the nations had been preparing for years. 

Clearly the writer is here thinking of the general 
strike against war which has been so long suggested in 
Socialist and Syndicalist circles. This was the policy 
which was put forward by M. Herve before the Inter- 
national Socialist Congress of 1907 ; this was the 
subject of the resolution tabled by the French General 
Confederation of Labour for discussion at the Inter- 
national Trade Union Congress, and ruled out of order 
by the Committee : this is the action which Mr. Keir 
Hardie has long been advocating in this country. 
Now that we have had actual experience of the way in 
which Europe goes to war, it seems unlikely that the 
suggestion will be revived ; but it is worth while to 
make a few comments upon it. 

The general strike against war is clearly a political 
rather than an industrial act, in so far as the two can 
be distinguished. It was on this ground that the 
International Federation of Trade Unions referred 
the suggestion to the International Social Bureau, as 
belonging rather to its province. In fact, where in 
the past, as in Belgium, a general strike has been 
declared for a political object, the body controlling 
it has been rather the Socialist Party than the Trade 
Union movement. It was in pursuance of this idea 
that the British Section, in accordance with the decision 
of the International Socialist Bureau and of the Labour 


Party Conference, sent a circular letter to all affiliated 
societies in 1912, including all the Unions affiliated to 
the Labour Party, asking for their views on the following 
question : 

Are you in favour of the organised Working -Class 
Movements of all countries being asked to come to a 
mutual agreement whereby in the event of war being 
threatened between any two or more countries, the workers 
of those countries would hold themselves prepared to try 
to prevent it by a mutual and simultaneous stoppage of 
work in the countries affected ? 

It appears that practically no answers were received, 
and that there was not the smallest indication of willing- 
ness to proceed along the lines suggested. It is one of 
the ironies of fate that the whole question was to have 
been rediscussed, in the light of similar enquiries in all 
countries, at the International Socialist Congress in 
August 1914. The last Congress, held in 1910, rejected 
the motion by Mr. Keir Hardie and M. Vaillant in 
favour of a general strike against war by 131 votes to 
51, and " in the resolution which was finally carried laid 
special emphasis on the need for political action, so that 
the workers, by controlling the machinery of Govern- 
ment, would have the deciding voice in the matter." 1 

There is, in short, save among the French Syndical- 
ists, no indication of any general desire that the policy 
of the general strike against war should be adopted. 
I can only refer to what I have said in an earlier book : 2 
" The strike against war may be ruled out at once as a 
sheer impossibility." 

I have dealt with the manifestos published by the 
various sections of the Labour movement at the time 

1 Extract from the covering letter sent with its questions by 
the British Section in 1912. 

* The World of Labour, p. 147. 


of the outbreak of war. It remains to continue the 
series with one or two important documents of later 
date. On October 15, " to clear away once and for 
all misconceptions which have been circulated as to 
the attitude of the British Labour movement," the 
following manifesto was issued, signed by most of 
the Labour Members of Parliament, by the Parlia- 
mentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress, 
by the Management Committee of the General Federa- 
tion of Trade Unions, and by other Labour leaders : 

The British Labour movement has always stood for 
peace. During the last decade it has made special efforts 
to promote friendly relations between the peoples of Great 
Britain and Germany. Deputations of Labour representa- 
tives have taken messages of goodwill across the North 
Sea despite the obstacles to international working-class 
solidarity which existed. In turn, German Labour leaders 
on similar missions have been welcomed in this country 
by the organised workers. A strong hope was beginning 
to dawn that out of this intercourse would grow a permanent 
peaceful understanding between the two nations. 

But this hope has been destroyed, at least for a time, 
by the deliberate act of the ruler of the military Empire 
of Germany. The refusal of Germany to the proposal 
made by England that a conference of the European Powers 
should deal with the dispute between Austria and Servia, 
the peremptory domineering ultimatum to Russia, and 
the rapid preparations to invade France, all indicate that 
the German military caste were determined on war if the 
rest of Europe could not be cowed into submission by other 
means. The wanton violation of the neutrality of Belgium 
was proof that nothing, not even national honour and 
good faith, was to stand between Germany and the realisa- 
tion of its ambitions to become the dominant military 
power of Europe, with the Kaiser the dictator over all. 

The Labour Party in the House of Commons, face to 
face with this situation, recognised that Great Britain, 


having exhausted the resources of peaceful diplomacy, 
was bound in honour, as well as by treaty, to resist by arms 
the aggression of Germany. The party realised that if 
England had not kept her pledges to Belgium, and had 
stood aside, the victory of the German army would have 
been probable, and the victory of Germany would mean 
the death of democracy in Europe. 

Working-class aspirations for greater political and 
economic power would be checked, thwarted, and crushed, 
as they have been in the German Empire. Democratic 
ideas cannot thrive in a State where militarism is dominant ; 
and the military state with a subservient and powerless 
working class is the avowed political ideal of the German 
ruling caste. 

The Labour Party, therefore, as representing the most 
democratic elements in the British nation, has given its 
support in Parliament to the measures necessary to enable 
this country to carry on the struggle effectively. It has 
joined in the task of raising an army large enough to meet 
the national need by taking active part in the recruiting 
campaign organised by the various Parliamentary parties. 
Members of the party have addressed numerous meetings 
throughout the country for this purpose, and the central 
machinery of the party has been placed at the service of 
the recruiting campaign. This action has been heartily 
endorsed by the Parliamentary Committee of the Trade 
Union Congress, which represents the overwhelming 
majority of the Trade Unionists of the country. The 
Committee, in a manifesto on the war, states : 

The mere contemplation of the overbearing and brutal 
methods to which people have to submit under a govern- 
ment controlled by a military autocracy living, as it 
were, continuously under the threat and shadow of war 
should be sufficient to arouse the enthusiasm of the nation 
in resisting any attempt to impose similar conditions upon 
countries at present free from military despotism. 

The policy of the British Labour movement has been 
dictated by a fervent desire to save Great Britain and 


Europe from the evils that would follow the triumph of 
military despotism. Until the power which has pillaged 
and outraged Belgium and the Belgians, and plunged 
nearly the whole of Europe into the awful misery, suffering, 
and horror of war, is beaten, there can be no peace. While 
the conflict lasts England must be sustained both without 
and within ; combatants and non-combatants must be 
supported to the utmost. The Labour movement has 
done and is doing its part in this paramount national duty, 
confident that the brutal doctrine and methods of German 
militarism will fail. When the time comes to discuss the terms 
of peace the Labour movement will stand, as it has always 
stood, for an international agreement among all civilised 
nations that disputes and misunderstandings in the future 
shall be settled not by machine guns but by arbitration. 

The most notable absentees from the list of 
signatories to this document are among the Labour 
Members, and include Mr. MacDonald, Mr. Snowden, 
Mr. Jowett, and Mr. Keir Hardie. There are certain 
names absent from the General Federation of Trade 
Unions' list ; but this has probably no significance. 
The document seems to represent the almost unanimous 
opinion of the Trade Union leaders. 

The second important document is a series of 
resolutions passed at an informal conference of the 
Socialist and Labour Parties of the Allied Nations, 
held in London on February 14, 1915. France, 
Belgium, Russia, and Great Britain were represented, 
all sections of the political Socialist and Labour move- 
ment in this country being invited. 1 The resolutions 
were carried unanimously, with the endorsement of 
the I.L.P. representatives. 

1 The representatives of the French General Confederation of 
Labour were only with difficulty persuaded to remain when they 
found that representatives of the Trade Union movement in Great 
Britain had not been invited. 


(i) This conference cannot ignore the profound general 
causes of the European conflict, itself a monstrous product 
of the antagonisms which tear asunder capitalist society 
and of the policy of colonial dependencies and aggressive 
imperialism, against which international Socialism has 
never ceased to fight, and in which every government has 
its share of responsibility. 

The invasion of Belgium and France by the German 
armies threatens the very existence of independent nation- 
alities, and strikes a blow at all faith in treaties. In these 
circumstances a victory for German imperialism would be 
the defeat and the destruction of democracy and liberty 
in Europe. The Socialists of Great Britain, Belgium, 
France, and Russia do not pursue the political and economic 
crushing of Germany ; they are not at war with the peoples 
of Germany and Austria, but only with the governments of 
those countries by which they are oppressed. They de- 
mand that Belgium shall be liberated and compensated. 
They desire that the question of Poland shall be settled 
in accordance with the wishes of the Polish people, either 
in the sense of autonomy in the midst of another State, 
or in that of complete independence. They wish that 
throughout all Europe, from Alsace-Lorraine to the 
Balkans, those populations that have been annexed by 
force shall receive the right freely to dispose of themselves. 

While inflexibly resolved to fight until victory is achieved 
to accomplish this task of liberation, the Socialists are 
none the less resolved to resist any attempt to transform 
this defensive war into a war of conquest, which would 
only prepare fresh conflicts, create new grievances, and 
subject various peoples more than ever to the double 
plague of armaments and war. 

Satisfied that they are remaining true to the principles 
of the International, the members of the conference express 
the hope that the working classes of all the different 
countries will before long find themselves united again in 
their struggle against militarism and capitalist imperialism. 
The victory of the Allied Powers must be a victory for 
popular liberty, for unity, independence, and autonomy 


of the nations in the peaceful federation of the United 
States of Europe and the world. 

(2) On the conclusion of the war the working classes 
of all the industrial countries must unite in the International 
in order to suppress secret diplomacy, put an end to the 
interest of militarism and those of the armament makers, 
and establish some international authority to settle points of 
difference among the nations by compulsory conciliation and 
arbitration, and to compel all nations to maintain peace. 

(3) The conference protests against the arrest of the 
deputies of the Duma, against the suppression of Russian 
Socialist papers and the condemnation of their editors, 
as well as against the oppression of Finns, Jews, and 
Russian and German Poles. 

So far as the allied nations are concerned, this is 
the nearest approach there has been during the war 
to international action among Socialists. Socialists 
of some neutral countries have also conferred ; and 
it is announced that there will shortly be a representa- 
tive meeting, including Socialists of the nations at 
war. But, on the whole, the International Socialist 
Bureau has been perforce inactive ; nor does the 
present bitterness on both sides seem likely to make 
its restoration after the war more easy. 

Throughout this chapter we have necessarily been 
dealing almost entirely with the resolutions and 
opinions of leaders. Save by acquiescing in the actions 
of the leaders, the rank and file gave no sign of their 
view in the earlier months of the war. In later chapters 
we shall see a change in this respect, beginning with 
the meetings of protest against food prices and the 
Clyde strike. It may be that the absence of defi- 
nite evidence as to the attitude of the rank and file 
during the early months is due largely to the fact that 
the workers had no definite attitude. They were 



bewildered, and it took them time to collect their 

One piece of evidence that might be useful is un- 
fortunately only available in a very incomplete form. 
There are no reliable figures showing the total enlist- 
ment among Trade Unionists, though the following 
table, prepared by the Workers' Emergency Com- 
mittee, indicates the position in certain cases some 
time ago. It is not stated at what date the figures 
were compiled ; but they were laid before the Com- 
mittee in February 1915 : 


Trade Union. 


Average weekly wages. 

Beamers, Twisters, etc. 


283. to 503. 



1, 060 

323. 6d. to 963. 

Boot and Shoe Operatives 


Builders' Labourers, National 




Bookbinders and Machine Rulers 



Bleachers, Dyers, etc. 



305. to 353. 

Card and Blowing Room 


tives .... 

. . 


303. to 353. 





Clerks .... 



353. to 403. 

Gasworkers and General 

14 4.Q<> 

1 8s. to 6os. 



T > '^J 3 


363. to 433. 

National Amalgamated 


of Labour 


233. to 403. 

Machine Workers 







Postmen's Federation * 



355. (London) 

26s. (Provinces) 

us. (part-time) 

363. rod. (general) 

1 The figures for these districts are incomplete. 



Trade Union. 


Average weekly wages. 

Railwayman, National Union of 


353. (guards) 

503. (drivers) 

Shipwrights, etc. 


423. to iocs. 

Shop Assistants .... 


275. 6d. 

Steel Smelters .... 


253. to ^10 



453. (minimum) 



403. to 1403. 

Typographical Association 


305. to 503. 



3 8s. 

Vehicle Workers .... 


393. to 563. 

Watermen, Lightermen, etc. 



Workers' Union .... 


In addition to above there must be 

added many tens of thousands from 

the Transport Trade Unions 

Ayrshire Miners .... 


363. to 453. 

Bristol Miners .... 


303. to 353. (with 

house and coal) 

Derbyshire Miners 


415. 8d. 

Cannock Chase Miners 



Clackmannanshire Miners . 


405. to 503. 

Cleveland Miners 


323. 6d. 

Cumberland Miners . 


4 2S. 

Durham Miners .... 


303. to 353. (with 

house and coal) 

Forest of Dean Miners 



Lanarkshire Miners . 



Lancashire and Cheshire Miners l 


323. 6d. to 423. 

Leicestershire Miners . 



Mid and East Lothian Miners . 


375. 6d. to 453. 

Northumberland Miners . 


(403. with house 

and coal) 

North Staffordshire Miners 


303. to 383. gd. 

North Wales Miners . 



Nottingham Miners . 


Old Hill (Staffs) Miners . 


223. to 35S. 

Stirlingshire Miners . 


353. to 403. 

South Derbyshire Miners . 



South Wales Miners 1 


26s. 8d. to 6os. 

West Lothian Miners 


243. to 403. 

Yorkshire Miners 


323. to loos. 

1 The figures for these districts are incomplete. 


These figures were exceedingly incomplete at the 
time of publication, as they take account only of the 
largest Trade Unions. They are, of course, now far 
more incomplete. 1 But even so they indicate a very 
considerable response from the better-paid workers 
to the call for recruits. 

If it is inquired what were the motives that led 
to this enlistment, it is at once clear from the wages 
given in the above table that mercenary considerations 
can have had little to do with them. Doubtless, many 
men enlisted owing to actual or prospective unemploy- 
ment ; but the majority of these were unskilled workers 
and many of them non-unionists. The above table 
shows that there was a large enlistment among workers 
who were not threatened with unemployment and who 
were actually earning good wages. To assign their 
respective shares to other motives, such as patriotism, 
love of change, and love of adventure, is a task beyond 
my power. The reader will be in a better position to 
estimate the part played by economic causes in facili- 
tating recruiting when he has read the next chapter. 

1 For instance, the number of enlisted miners according to the 
above table is 115,000, whereas according to the Coal Mining 
Organisation Committee, 191,170 miners had already enlisted in 
February. Many more enlisted in the months immediately following. 



WHEN war broke out, the workers, the capitalists, and 
the Government seem to have been equally in the 
dark as to its probable effects upon industry. No 
one knew what would be its reaction upon the credit 
system and on external trade ; no one knew how far 
the home demand was likely to suffer contraction ; 
no one foresaw the scale on which the war would be 
carried on, or the immense demands it would make 
upon production. It was, of course, anticipated that 
a few industries ministering directly to military needs 
would be busy beyond their wont ; but even here 
nothing like what has actually happened was expected 
in the early days of August. On every side people 
made up their minds that there was bound to be a very 
severe dislocation of the industrial machine, if not a 
complete collapse. The event has in the main falsified 
these expectations, though that is far from meaning 
that no problem of unemployment has existed or now 
exists. What was not realised was that side by side 
with unemployment there would soon be the opposite 
problem of a shortage of labour. 

That is to say, few persons anticipated that Great 
Britain would raise its army to anything like the 



present strength, or that anything like the present 
amount of stores and munitions would be required. 
Armies consume largely even in peace time : under 
the conditions of modern warfare their consumption is 
enormous. The war is costing us several million 
pounds a day, and much of this goes in commodities 
which provide work at home. Moreover, the allied 
Powers are getting from us a great part of their stores 
and munitions. 

At the beginning of the war there were a number 
of reasons which led every one to expect widespread 
unemployment. Chief among these was, no doubt, 
the expected collapse of the credit system, which 
became to some extent actual in the early days of the 
war. Even before this country was actually at war, 
there were plentiful signs of impending collapse. 
Birmingham, for instance, which produces largely for 
export, was already suffering considerably on August 2, 
and there was great uneasiness on the Newcastle 
coal exchange. It was foreseen that if the mechanism 
of international credit suffered even the most tem- 
porary collapse, on the one hand foreign orders could 
not be delivered and new orders could not come in, 
and on the other hand there would almost at once be a 
serious shortage of raw materials which would throw 
the whole system out of gear. The cotton industry 
was, of course, the most seriously affected ; but the 
iron and steel trades were also in a bad way, and the 
dislocation at once communicated itself to the coal- 
mining industry. In the Fifeshire coalfield alone 
nearly 20,000 men were said to be workless on August 4. 
A few days later the industry and transport services 
of Liverpool were almost at a standstill, and the 
Yorkshire woollen industry was in a serious state of 


depression. Moreover, in the prevailing uncertainty, 
all classes at once began to economise, and the luxury 
trades suffered heavily. With the measures taken to 
relieve this distress, which fell with exceptional severity 
upon women workers, I shall deal in later chapters. 
Here I am only concerned to state the position. 

In any estimate of the effects of the war on em- 
ployment it is necessary to take into account the state 
of trade before the war. The following is the summary 
given in the Board of Trade Labour Gazette for August 
of the position in July 1914 : 

Employment in July showed a further decline, but still 
remained good on the whole at the end of the month. 
There was little change in the building, iron and steel, 
tinplate, and engineering trades, but the shipbuilding 
trades were not so fully employed, and there was a decrease 
in the number of pig-iron furnaces in blast. There was 
some recovery in the lace and hosiery trades, but employ- 
ment in other branches of the textile industries showed a 
further contraction, especially in the cotton trade. 

Compared with July 1913, employment showed a 
falling-off in most of the principal industries. The decline 
was most marked in the pig-iron, iron and steel, cotton 
and woollen trades. In the tinplate trade there was a 
considerable increase in the number of mills working. 

Thus, even before the war, employment was on 
the down-grade. The position, however, was serious 
only in one instance. The cotton industry, after 
experiencing a period of very great prosperity, was 
declining rapidly ; and so certain was the prospect of 
further contraction that an agreement to limit pro- 
duction by extending holidays and working short time 
had already been reached between employers and 
employed. In other cases, trade was still prosperous, 
though there was a decline from the great boom of 1913. 



In the case of the cotton industry, the war brought 
instant disaster. The temporary collapse of credit 
and, when that cause had been removed, the high 
insurance premiums on cargoes stopped the influx of 
raw material, while, on the other hand, export became 
difficult for a time almost impossible and there 
was a serious contraction of demand both at home and 
abroad. The Indian market, always liable to violent 
fluctuations according to the plentifulness of money in 
India, was especially affected. Fully 200,000 cotton 
operatives were at one time totally unemployed, 
and many more were on short time. At the beginning 
of September the Weavers' Amalgamation alone 
had 88,551 members totally unemployed, while among 
Cardroom Operatives the percentage unemployed 
varied between 20 and 50. Burnley, which was 
producing 75 per cent of its normal output in July, 
sank to 25 per cent in August, and even to 20 per cent 
in October. This was, no doubt, an extreme case ; 
but many other towns were not much better off. For 
the earlier months of the war, until the revival of 
credit and the fall in insurance rates, the outlook in 
Lancashire was gloomy in the extreme. 

We are fortunately provided with fairly full figures 
on which to form an estimate of the total amount of 
unemployment caused by the war. Not only have we 
the regular monthly returns of the Board of Trade, 
which are often misleading : we have also the special 
reports drawn up by the Government in October, 
December, and February. These contain figures 
covering 4,000,000 workers in industry, showing the 
state of employment in the various months. The 
following tables refer solely to industry : they cover 
the big employers more completely than the small 



ones, and may therefore incline to underestimate the 
amount of unemployment ; but in the main the 
impression conveyed by them can be relied upon. 
No figures are given for August, when the dislocation 
was at its worst : but as the August phenomena were 
largely temporary, this is really an advantage. They 
show the state of affairs, first, before the war ; secondly, 
when things and persons began to adjust themselves 
to new conditions ; and, subsequently, as more and 
more enlistments reduced the displacement of male 
labour to less than nothing. The tables exclude 
transport, commercial work, and State and municipal 
employment, which, if they were included, would 
certainly not increase the proportion unemployed. 

These figures are most expressive when, as in the 
Government's report last October, they are expressed 
in actual numbers instead of percentages. 








Still on full time . 
On overtime 
On short time . 
Contraction of employ- 
ment .... 

Known to have joined 
the Forces . 
Net displacement ( - ) or 
replacement (+) 










- 98,000 


- 7,000 


Thus in September, out of about 9,250,000 wage- 
earners in industrial occupations, including about 
2,250,000 women, 98,000 men and 189,000 women 



were out of work, despite the fact that 616,000 such 
men had joined the Forces. 

In October the displacement of women's labour 
in industrial occupations had only fallen to 139,000, 
whereas, though less men were being employed, the 
net displacement of male labour had fallen to 7000. 

First, then, it is obvious that after the first month 
or so the actual hardship was very unevenly dis- 
tributed between men and women. Loss of work drove 
many thousands of men into the army : the displaced 
women, on the other hand, were thrown back on 
various forms of charity or relief. With the measures 
taken to provide such relief I shall deal later : I am 
here concerned only with the fact that there was an 
enormous displacement of women's labour. This was 
largely due to the depression in most branches of the 
textile and clothing industries, in which the greater 
number of women wage-earners ard employed. 

Let us turn now to the corresponding figures for 
December and February, expressed this time as per- 
centages of the total volume of industrial employment 
last July. 



(Numbers employed in July = ioo.) 












I. ed in July . 
S' . ^.i full time 
Oi. overtime . . . 
On short time . 
Contraction of numbers em 







5- a 





10. 5 





















Known by employers to have 
joined the Forces 
Net displacement (-) or re- 
placement (+) 










We can see from this table that, whereas there was 
a net displacement of o.i per cent (or 7000) male 
wage-earners in industry in October, there were 
actually 2.4 per cent (or 168,000) more such wage- 
earners either in employment or known to be with the 
Forces in December, and 3.6 per cent (or more than a 
quarter of a million) in February 1915. Among 
women, the contraction of labour in the same group of 
occupations fell from 6.2 per cent (or 139,500) in 
October to 3.2 per cent (or roughly 75,000) in December, 
and 1.5 per cent (or roughly 35,000) in February. 
Since then there has undoubtedly been a very great 
reduction of unemployment, and in addition new sources 
of both male and female labour have been tapped. 

If we ask whence the new male labour has come, 
the answer is that it has come partly from the absorp- 
tion of those who were unemployed last July of 
whom, it should be observed, the above tables take no 
account and partly by the entry of new labour into 
the industries concerned. This has taken the form 
both of a return to work of men who had ceased to be 
so employed, and of a transference of labour from 
commercial and other occupations to industry. The 
first of these applies with even greater force in the case 
of women employed in certain industries : in woollen 
work, for instance, a good many married women have 
returned to their old occupations. 

The monthly returns published in the Board of 
Trade Labour Gazette indicate the nature of the surplus 
labour available for absorption in the various industries 
last July, and the extent to which it has actually been 
absorbed. The facts are clearest in the case of the 
trades compulsorily insured against unemployment 
under Part II. of the National Insurance Act. In 


these cases figures are available for the whole, 01 
nearly the whole, of the workers employed, and there 
is a much smaller margin for error than in the case of 
the Trade Union unemployment returns. 

The following is the table showing the state of 
employment in insured trades last July, with com- 
parative figures for a month and for a year earlier : 

Increase (+)or 

Unemployed at 

Decrease ( - ) in per- 



end of July. 

centage unemployed 
as compared with a 








Building and Construc- 

tion of Works . 





Engineering and Iron- 






+ 0.9 

Shipbuilding . 




+ 0.6 

+ i-3 

Construction of Vehicles 




+ 0.4 






-0. 4 

+ 1.0 

Other insured work- 

people .... 





All insured work-people 

2,325-59 8 





I give now the comparative percentages for succeed- 
ing months : 



Aug. Sept. 









Kuilding and Con- 

struction of 

Works . 












Engineering and 

Ironfounding . 
























Construction of 

Vehicles . 












Sawmilling . 



V 6 









Other insured 



3. a 










All insured) 
work-people / 












1 The figures refer in every case to the end of tlie month. 


Thus, in the insured trades, which, it should be 
pointed out, do not include any of the industries most 
severely hit by the war, the general level of unemploy- 
ment had become normal, or less than normal, by the 
end of November, and would have been normal in 
October, but for the continued depression in the 
building industry. By the spring of 1915 only an 
almost irreducible minimum of unemployment due to 
unavoidable causes was left in the engineering and 
shipbuilding industries. The surplus labour was 
absorbed, and, as we have seen from earlier tables, a 
great deal of labour was attracted from outside. 

It will be well to set beside these figures the Trade 
Union percentages, which are compiled from returns 
sent to the Board of Trade by Unions which pay 
unemployed benefit. They are less reliable, since they 
cover only certain trades in the industries to which 
they refer ; but they are important as almost the only 
statistical indication of the effect of unemployment on 
Trade Unionists as distinguished from the general body 
of workers. The figures for insured trades, of course, 
cover Unionists and non-Unionists alike. 

I begin with the table showing the state of Trade 
Union unemployment in July 1914. 



(Based on 3138 Returns.) 

Trade Unions with a net membership of 988,946 reported 28,013 
(or 2.8 per cent) of their members as unemployed at the end of July 
1914, compared with 2.4 per cent at the end of June 1914, and 1.9 
per cent at the end of July 1913. 

Increase (+) or 


at end of 
July 1914, 

Unemployed at end 
of July 1914. 

Decrease ( - ) in per- 
centage unemployed 
as compared with a 

of Unions 









Building 1 




+ 0.3 


Coal Mining 2 . 




+ 0.1 

Iron and Steel 




+ 2-5 

Engineering . 





+ 1-5 

Shipbuilding . 




+ 2.2 

+ 3-8 

Miscellaneous Metal 






Textiles 2 : 





+ i-7 


Woollen and Worsted 






Other .... 






Printing, Bookbinding, 

and Paper 






Furnishing and Wood- 

working . 






Clothing . . ... 





Leather .... 





+ 1.0 





+ 0.1 

+ 0.2 

Pottery . 






Tobacco .... 






Total . 





+ 0.9 

1 The Trade Union Returns relate mainly to carpenters and 

2 In addition to the ordinary short time which occurs in all 
trades, it should be noted that in the mining and textile industries 
a contraction in the demand for labour is more generally met by a 
reduction in the time worked per week by a large number of work- 
people than by the discharge of a smaller number. 



A comparison of these figures with those for insured 
trades at once shows how wide is the margin for 
error in this table. There are 956,000 " insured " 
building workers ; the Trade Union percentages, 
which are, of course, wholly incomplete, only cover 
72,000 of these. The engineering figures only relate 
to 233,000 out of 817,000, and the shipbuilding figures 
to 74,000 out of 264,000. Apart from building, 
however, there is some correspondence in the figures. 
In engineering the percentages are 3.4 in the Trade 
Union and 3.2 in the Insurance figures : in shipbuilding 
they are 6.6 and 4.7. I give the figures for subsequent 
months for what they are worth. 













Building . 
Coal Mining . 
















Iron and Steel 




3- 1 










7- 1 










Shipbuilding . 













Metal . 


9.0 f 










Textiles : 













Woollen and 

























Printing, Book- 

binding, and 













Furnishing ) 
Wood-working ( 




































Glass . 



































Total . 












These figures clearly show that whereas up to the 
end of 1914 there was still considerable uncertainty and 
fluctuation, early in 1915 the various industries had 
found their equilibrium, and the proportion of un- 
employed became almost a fixed quantity, though, 


despite the very low percentage already reached, 
there was still a continuous decrease in engineering 
and shipbuilding unemployment. When it is re- 
membered that bad trade in the textile industries is 
generally met by working short time, the figure of 
17.7 per cent totally out of work in the cotton industry 
at the end of August is nothing short of appalling. 

It should, moreover, be remembered that all these 
tables relate to the end of the various months. They 
therefore leave altogether out of account the tem- 
porary, " panic " unemployment of the earlier weeks 
of August. 

The cumulative evidence of all these figures gives a 
perfectly clear conclusion. Apart from certain luxury 
trades, which affect many women, there is no real 
problem of unemployment to-day. The problem is 
rather one of shortage, especially of skilled labour. 
This, however, is no indication of the future course 
of events, as much of the production of to-day is 
artificial. There must be, sooner or later, a retransfer- 
ence of labour at least as great as that which dislocated 
industry during the latter months of 1914. But, 
severe as this dislocation was, it was not, taken as a 
whole, worse than the dislocation caused by a severe 
depression of trade. We weathered it, thanks to the 
relief caused by enlistment ; but there will be no 
enlistments to help us weather the " outbreak of peace." 
Instead, there will be a return to the labour market 
of those who have been with the Forces. 

Broadly speaking, then, it is true to say, at any rate 
in the case of male wage-earners, that whereas un- 
employment was the problem during the first few 
months of the war, scarcity of labour is far more the 
problem to-day. This does not indeed apply univer- 


sally : in certain trades there are still men unemployed. 
These are, however, in the main workers in highly 
skilled and specialised occupations, who, despite the 
collapse of their own trade, find it difficult or impossible 
to transfer to any other. This is true as a rule only of 
old or middle-aged men, or of workers in highly localised 
industries, and it does not, in any case, present a grave 

So far I have dealt solely with the general volume 
of employment. It should not, however, be assumed 
that because there are now few male wage-earners out 
of work, all of these are now back at their old trades. 
The recovery of industry has been to a great extent not 
natural, but artificial. That is to say, it is now working 
to satisfy a temporary and exceptional demand, which 
will not persist in the same form after the war. In- 
dustry may, then, be expected to revert largely to the 
old channels ; for the moment there has been a great 
deal of adaptation and transformation. 

This is borne out very forcibly by the following 
table, in which the contraction or expansion of the 
number employed since the war is given by industries. 
The figures relate solely to males, and the industries 
are divided into the following three groups : 

1. Industries in which there is a marked shortage of 
male labour, and in which it has been necessary to attract 
men from the outside ; 

2. Industries which are in a fairly normal condition as 
regards male labour ; and 

3. Industries in which the contraction of numbers 
employed is considerably greater than the withdrawal 
of men for the Forces. 

7 6 






Net Dis- 


Net Dis- 









or Ex- 



or Ex- 





Trade Groups. 


















Group 1. 





Leatiier and Leather Goods 
Chemicals (including ex- 


- 6.0 

- I.O 


+ 7.6 

- 2.4 

+ 2.5 


+ 11.5 




plosives) . 


- 3-3 



+ 1.2 





Woollen and Worsted 
Boot and Shoe 


- 8.7 
+ 0.7 
- 3-3 




+ 5.9 
+ 7.9 
+ 6.6 

- 9-i 
+ 0.3 
- i.i 


+ 7.0 
+ 9.3 

+ 9.8 





- 0.7 


+ 6.8 

- 2.7 


+ 9.6 



Iron and Steel 


- 7-5 


+ 6.4 

- 5-7 






c fi 

+ 7.8 

- 8.6 

16. i 

+ 7.5 





- 6.2 


+ 8.0 

- 12.0 

16. i 

+ 4.1 

10. 1 

6. 3 

Coal and other Mines 1 




+ 3.3 



+ 3.4 



Group 9. 

Clothing .... 




- 1.6 



+ 0.8 



Paper and Printing . 
Linen, Jute, and Hemp . 


- 12.2 
- 8.2 


+ 0.3 
+ 6.8 


- I2.I 


+ 0.3 
+ 5.0 



Cotton . . _ . 


-I 3-3 

' S 9 '.6 

- 3.7 

- II. I 


+ 0.5 

II. 2 


Cycle Motor, Carriage and 

Waggon Building . 
China, Pottery, and Glass 



- II. 2 


- 8.2 

+ 2.1 

-I 7 .8 
-I6. 3 


- 0.9 

- 0.8 




Group 3. 

Building .... 




- 9.3 



- 8.2 

7- 1 


Furniture and Upholstery . 




- 6.8 



- 8.2 



Brick, Cement, etc. . 


20. 2 


- 6.7 






Tinplate . . .. . 



- 3.2 


I I.O 

- 3.2 



1 In the case of Coal Trade, the Miners' Eight Hours Act prevents the working of overtime in the 
ordinary sense, though it does not limit the number of shifts that may be worked per week. 

In practically every case the only important 
exception being the woollen industry there is a 
contraction in the number employed since last July ; 
but this contraction varies very much in different cases, 
and a comparison with the enlistment figures at once 
shows that in certain industries a great deal of new 
labour has been called in. Thus, in shipbuilding, 


nearly 14 per cent have enlisted, yet the contraction 
in the numbers employed only amounts to 2.4 per cent. 
Coal-mining, where the enlistment is 17 per cent and 
the contraction nearly 14 per cent, seems the only 
outstanding instance in which it has been impossible 
to call in much new labour. Conversely, cotton 
operatives have not to any great extent transferred 
themselves to other industries. Agriculture, of course, 
is not included in the return, which relates solely to 
industry proper. 

Indeed, transference to new occupations is perhaps 
the most remarkable feature in the whole situation. 
Those who prophesied widespread unemployment 
usually based their forecasts on a clear demonstration 
that this or that industry was bound to be greatly 
depressed. Very often their forecasts were right in 
this respect ; but there was after all far less unemploy- 
ment than they had expected. The surplus labour, 
where it did not or could not enlist, transferred itself 
with surprising rapidity to industries in which a boom 
could be anticipated. In a few months, many thousands 
of workers had changed their occupations, and settled 
down to their new tasks. For instance, the depression 
in the building trade has not had the expected results, 
because vast numbers of men, including some furniture- 
makers, have found work on hut-building and similar 
jobs. Even on August 19, Mr. Herbert Samuel was 
already saying that the first stress of unemployment 
had been considerably abated, and that things had 
turned out to be not so bad as they were expected to 

But, if the general situation soon gave cause for 
congratulation, this did not mean that there were not 
considerable sections of wage-earners in severe distress. 


The Lancashire cotton trade was paralysed, and is still, 
except where there are large Government contracts, 
only recovering slowly : women in the other textile 
trades, in the clothing industry, and in many smaller 
luxury trades, not to mention women clerks, dress- 
makers, domestic servants, and charwomen, suffered 
most severely. What is most surprising, and a striking 
comment on the Government's lack of foresight, is 
that in the woollen industry, which has now for months 
been working overtime to supply khaki for the troops, 
unemployment was allowed to grow continually worse 
down to September. The General Union of Textile 
Workers had 426 members unemployed in August, 
whereas in September the number rose to 1113. By 
November it had no one at all out of work. 

Again, the Boilermakers had over 4000 members 
unemployed right up to November, whereas now 
there has been for some months a cry for more men. 
Nothing was for some time done to give such men 
work, and they were allowed to be driven by unem- 
ployment into enlisting just when their services were 
about to be urgently required in industry. 

Enough has been said to show that the incidence 
of unemployment has throughout the war been spread 
very unevenly among the various trades. This 
naturally meant that the burden fell with altogether 
unequal severity upon the different Trade Unions. 
In a few cases the war has actually meant increased 
financial prosperity, despite the advantageous terms 
which most Unions have given to their members who 
are absent on military service ; in others, it has meant, 
if not ruin, at least severe financial stress and almost 
entire depletion of funds. The cotton industry 
furnishes the most striking example of such losses, 


though the Lacemakers, the Felt Hatters, and other 
Unions have suffered no less heavily in proportion to 
their strength. 

I shall now proceed to examine the suggestions 
made, and the steps actually taken to enable the workers 
to weather the crisis of last autumn. 



IN an earlier chapter we saw how Labour treated the 
Government on the outbreak of war : we have now to 
enquire how the Government treated Labour. Claim- 
ing to act in the name of the whole nation, demanding 
the co-operation of all classes, setting aside by pro- 
fession all party considerations, the Cabinet might 
surely have been expected, if only by those who did 
not know it, to take the workers into its confidence 
and to devolve upon them rights and responsibilities 
as well as duties. In fact, it did nothing of the sort : 
Liberalism, even in war tune, lost none of its distrust 
of democracy and freedom. It put off the workers 
with as little as it could give, and, thanks to the lack 
of decision on the Labour side, it got off with very 
little indeed. The first phase of the class-struggle 
under war conditions ended in the rout of the Labour 
forces. Steps were indeed taken in the direction of 
extending State control, and these steps were acclaimed 
as " Socialism " ; but in their real task of gaining 
freedom and responsibility the workers were given no 
encouragement whatsoever. The war opened no one's 
eyes : the blind only continued, rather more rapidly 
than before, to lead the blind into the Servile State. 



At the outset the Government acted wisely in 
scotching a purely panic rise in food prices by the 
supposedly " Utopian " and " uneconomic " course of 
fixing maximum prices. This move was entirely 
successful in stopping an artificial inflation which must, 
in any case, soon have ceased. On August 2 the Board 
of Agriculture sent round a reassuring circular on the 
subject of the food supply, and on August 5 a further 
statement was issued by a special Cabinet Committee 
on Food Prices. The subsequent Government pur- 
chase of sugar, hailed as a further instalment of " Social- 
ism," seems to have been less successful. 

When the Government assumed control of the 
railways for the period of the war, this, too, was called 
" Socialism," though it did nothing to change the 
ownership of the railway service, and involved merely 
a temporary change in administrative control. In a 
Socialist society the Government would, no doubt, 
own the railways ; but it is the most elementary of 
logical errors to conclude that the administrative 
change was " Socialism." Yet many who call them- 
selves Socialists were no less foolish than the Bishop 
who wrote in December : " We have had a taste of 
Socialism, and we like it." 

The outstanding domestic problem at the beginning 
of the war was that of dealing with unemployment. 
In the last chapter I made some attempt to show the 
magnitude of the problem : I shall now try to show 
how it was met, as well as how Labour asked that it 
should be met. 

Inevitably, the Government got in first. The 
Labour conference which became the War Emergency 
Workers' Committee met on August 5, and on the 
same day the Government announced the appointment 



of a Government Committee to deal with distress, 
under the chairmanship of Mr. Herbert Samuel. Mr. 
Ramsay MacDonald was Labour's representative on 
this Committee, which issued a circular on August 6. 
This circular announced that an appeal for a National 
Relief Fund was about to be issued by the Prince of 
Wales, urged the necessity of subscribing to this fund, 
asked employers not to dismiss their staffs, announced 
the readiness of the Local Government Board to con- 
sider schemes under the Unemployed Workmen Act, 
and made the following further pronouncement : 

Steps are being taken to form central committees in 
the boroughs, the larger urban districts, and the counties, 
under the chairmanship of the mayors and chairmen of 
councils, which will consider the needs of the localities 
and control the distribution of such relief as may be 
required. These committees will include representatives 
of the municipal, education, and poor law authorities, 
distress committees, Trade Unions, and philanthropic 
agencies. Attention is at the same time drawn to the 
importance of securing the services of women as members 
of these committees. 

The Prince of Wales's Fund and the Local Relief 
Committees, together with certain recommendations for 
expediting public works under local authorities, the 
Road Board, the Development Commission, and other 
agencies, formed the Government's plan for relieving 
distress. In the following circular, issued to mayors 
and other heads of local Committees on August 8, the 
Local Government Board gave its definition of the 
powers and scope of these Committees : 


August 8, 1914. 

SIR I am directed by the Local Government Board to 
refer to the Circular which they addressed to you on the 


6th instant with regard to the formation of a Local Repre- 
sentative Committee for dealing with any distress which 
may arise in consequence of the war, and to state that 
they will feel obliged if you will forward to them as soon 
as possible particulars on the enclosed form of the constitu- 
tion of the Committee. 

The Cabinet Committee on the Prevention and Relief 
of Distress have had under consideration questions relating 
to the organisation of the work and the procedure of the 
local Committee, and I am directed to acquaint you with 
their views in regard to these matters. 

The primary duty of the Committee will be to survey 
the existing conditions of employment in the locality, and 
to consider what measures might be adopted with a view 
to preventing distress through lack of employment and 
alleviating such distress should it unhappily occur. 

It is in the highest degree desirable that employers 
should do all in their power to avert the sudden closing 
of works, and also that temporary appointments should 
be made to fill all vacancies caused by the mobilisation of 
His Majesty's forces. 

The Committee, including as it will representatives of 
Local Authorities, public bodies, and philanthropic agencies, 
will comprise amongst its members persons who are 
intimately acquainted with local industrial conditions, 
as well as those who have experience in matters such as 
those with which the Committee will be called upon to 
deal. It will thus be well equipped for forming an accurate 
estimate of the situation and for concerting measures for 
the prevention and mitigation of distress. If any of the 
local industries show signs of failing, the Committee should 
at once inform the Local Government Board, who will 
bring the matter before the Cabinet Committee. 

In the event of distress becoming acute, the Committee 
will be responsible for the co-ordination of all relief agencies 
in the locality, whether official or voluntary, as well as for 
the distribution of grants made from the National Fund. 
For this purpose it will be necessary that the Committee 
should have a register of assistance. 


The Board are addressing a communication to the 
Guardians requesting them to provide the Committee 
with a list of the persons in receipt of poor relief. If the 
Distress Committee have opened a register, a copy of this 
should be made available. The Committee itself should 
also keep a register of the persons who receive assistance 
from the National Fund. 

It is suggested that the register should be kept on a 
rough card index system, possibly with reference to areas 
or streets. 

The object of the register is to enable the Committee 
readily to discriminate between applicants for assistance 
and to avoid overlapping. 

It is not intended that the organisation of the Local 
Committee should be utilised by persons who have been 
for a continuous period in receipt of relief, and such persons 
should be referred back to the Guardians. 

With regard to other applicants, it is highly desirable 
that any relief afforded should take the form of work for 
wages when it is possible to provide work. In this con- 
nection the Local Authority will, of course, continue to 
push on all works already in progress, and it is hoped 
that in many cases they will be able to expedite other 
schemes of public work and thus absorb a considerable 
amount of labour. In other cases the Distress Committee 
in co-operation with the Local Authority will probably be 
able to initiate schemes of work by which provision could 
be made for the more deserving and necessitous cases. 
Such schemes will be aided by grants made by the 
Board out of the money provided by Parliament for 
the purposes of the Unemployed Workmen Act. In areas 
where there are no Distress Committees similar schemes 
of work can, it is hoped, be devised which can also 
be aided by the Local Government Board out of public 

The Local Education Authority will have received from 
the Board of Education a circular with respect to the 
exercise of the powers for the feeding of school-children 
conferred by the Act which has just been passed by Parlia- 


ment, and the Committee will, of course, take this into 

The National Fund will be available for, and generally 
speaking should be restricted to, those cases which for 
various reasons cannot be dealt with by any of the methods 
of assistance above indicated. It may be mentioned 
that the work of the National Relief Fund will be closely 
co-ordinated with that of the Cabinet Committee. 

The Board have no doubt that the Clerk to the Local 
Authority would be willing to give the Committee the 
benefit of his experience and advice, and, if so desired, to 
place his staff at their disposal. They direct me to add 
that they understand that many offers of help have been 
made by various persons and organisations, including 
women's associations, and the Committee will probably 
desire to avail themselves of such assistance if necessary. 
I am, Sir, Your obedient servant, 

H. C. MONRO, Secretary. 

The Chairman of the County Council, 
The Lord Mayor, 
The Mayor, 

The Chairman of the Urban District Council. 

At the same time, forms were issued asking for a 
list of the organisations represented on the Com- 
mittees, and showing the number of women members. 

It is patent that the above circular was not intended 
to give any very clear indication of the Government's 
policy. It said very little about the principle on which 
money would be distributed for relief, and it held out 
only slender hopes that money would be forthcoming 
in adequate amounts for the prevention of unemploy- 
ment. It clearly stated that "it is highly desirable 
that any relief afforded should take the form of work 
for wages when it is possible to provide such work " ; 
but it showed no sign of being prepared to pay for the 
general adoption of that very expensive policy. And, 


where the alternative policy of relief was adopted, 
it gave no guidance as to scales of relief or as to 
the conditions on which relief was to be given. It 
was, as we shall see, on these faults in the scheme 
that the Workers' National Committee concentrated its 

The immediate result of the Government's policy 
was that, on the one side, money poured steadily into 
the National Relief Fund, and, on the other, a network 
of Local Relief Committees sprang up all over the 
country. For the most part these Committees were 
essentially not of a character likely to be acceptable 
to Labour. " Responsible," as the Government told 
them, " for the co-ordination of all relief agencies in 
the locality, whether official or voluntary," they 
inevitably consisted largely of " social workers," of 
those who had long been connected with the Poor Law, 
the Charity Organisation Society, and other relief 
agencies. The Labour representatives, even where 
they were given seats on the Committees, were nearly 
always swamped by the mass votes of the officials and 
charity-mongers. The social worker, long used to 
the relief of a peculiar type of distress, could not realise 
that the special distress created by the war was of a 
quite different character and demanded different 
treatment. Accustomed to bullying the very poor, 
the Committees set out with eagerness to bully the 
regular wage-earners whom the war had thrown out 
of work. They prepared case-papers, they made 
house-to-house visitations, they tried to pry into 
every detail of the private lives of those who, through 
no fault of their own, found themselves unemployed. 
The idea of " deterrence," familiar to the charitable 
mind, entered largely into these practices, and secured 


a great measure of success. In many districts, notably 
in parts of Lancashire where the distress was acute, 
the self-respecting wage-earners refused to go to the 
Relief Committees, preferring to exhaust savings 
and accumulate debts. In these cases the Committees 
became the Mecca of cadgers and undeserving cases, 
and when the workers were at last driven to appeal 
to them, their habits of inquisition had grown even 
worse than before. 

It cannot be denied that these mischievous in- 
quisitions were in fact stimulated by the circular sent 
out from the Local Government Board on August 17, 
in which the following paragraph occurred : 

It will be necessary for the Committee in determining 
the question of assistance to be given in any case to have 
regard to all the circumstances of the applicant, and for 
this purpose they should ascertain 

The ordinary occupation of the applicant ; 

Dependents ; 

In the case of insured persons, the Approved Society 
to which applicant belongs and number in that Society, 
or if a Deposit Contributor his number ; 

Whether registered at Labour Exchange ; 

Any special qualification or experience for any class of 
work ; 

Date and place of last employment ; and 

Any source of income. 

In particular, they should have on record any sickness 
or disablement benefit, meals given to school children, 
unemployment benefit, half -pay or other assistance from 
employer, or aid from charitable funds. It will, of course, 
be desirable to obtain this information in a manner which 
will not appear unduly inquisitorial to the applicant. 

The mild disclaimer in the last sentence did little 
or nothing to mitigate the ferocity of the " social 


experts," who had no intention of wasting the oppor- 
tunity of a life-time. 

The Government's proposals were fully elaborated 
in the following memorandum, which was sent out 
from the Local Government Board on August 20. 


1. The National organisation that has been set up for 
the purpose of dealing with any distress which may arise 
in consequence of the war is not intended to deal with 
cases of ordinary poverty. While it may not always be 
possible to discriminate between ordinary distress and 
distress caused by the war, it is not intended that the local 
committees which have been constituted should supersede 
the Poor Law authorities. 

2. The Committee is entrusted with the duty of co- 
ordinating all relief agencies in the locality with a view 
both to preventing overlapping and to seeing that cases 
which require assistance are not overlooked. 

3. It is essential for these purposes that a register 
should be kept on the lines laid down in the Board's circular 
letter of the iyth August. 

4. Obviously the best way to provide for persons 
thrown out of their usual employment as a result of the 
war is to provide them with some other work for wages. 
Wherever possible, such work should be work which is 
normally required to be taken in hand either by public 
authorities or private employers. It is only when these 
fail that recourse should be had to relief works. Accord- 
ingly the Committee should co-operate as closely as possible 
with any Board of Trade Labour Exchange or other agency 
in its area to which any applicant for assistance for whom 
suitable work either in his own locality or elsewhere may 
be available could be referred. The Labour Exchanges 
have been instructed to co-operate with the Committees 


in regard to this matter, and will be prepared to take any 
steps desired to invite notification of vacancies from 

5. The Committee will have the advantage of including 
among its members persons who are well acquainted with 
the conditions of industry in their area, and, as pointed 
out in previous circulars, it is one of the first duties of the 
Committee to make themselves acquainted with the con- 
ditions of local trade and industry. 

6. For this purpose the Committee should, so far as 
possible, use the existing agencies, such as the Labour 
Exchanges (in respect of the conditions of employment) 
and the Poor Law authorities (in respect of pauperism), 
and should make further inquiries of their own only in so 
far as it is found to be necessary to supplement this in- 
formation. The Labour Exchanges have been instructed 
to give such general information as is in their possession 
as to the state of employment. 

7. Where the demands of the normal labour market 
are inadequate the Committee should consult the local 
authorities as to the possibility of expediting schemes of 
public utility, which might otherwise not be put in hand 
at the present moment. 

8. Whatever work is undertaken by local authorities, 
whether it be normal work or expedited work, it should 
in all possible cases be performed in the ordinary way by 
men speciaUy suited to that particular class of work and 
selected as such in the ordinary labour market, rather than 
by men selected from the register of applicants to the 
Committee. The men engaged should be required to 
conform to the ordinary standards of competence in that 
class of work, and should of course be paid wages in the 
ordinary way. 

9. Under the Unemployed Workmen Act, 1905, Distress 
Committees are empowered to provide or contribute to 
the provision of work for unemployed persons, and in 
areas where such a Distress Committee has been set up, 
able-bodied men out of employment, for whom no work 
can be found through a Labour Exchange, should be 


referred to that Committee. Work so provided would, 
in suitable cases, be aided out of the Parliamentary grant 
for the purposes oi the Unemployed Workmen Act. 

10. Where relief works are provided, each man should 
only be employed a certain number of days per week. 

11. So far as possible applicants for assistance should 
be offered work which they can perform efficiently, and no 
assistance from the Relief Fund should be offered to any 
person for whom suitable work is available. 

12. Single men who are physically fit and within the 
prescribed ages for enlistment in the army, navy, or 
territorial forces should not ordinarily receive assistance 
from the local Committee until other applicants have been 
provided for. 

13. Relief without work should only be given when no 
other means of assistance are available, and so far as it 
may prove necessary in the last resort to provide relief 
without work, it must be recognised that the demands 
upon the funds available will in all probability be such as 
to make it impossible to do more than to provide relief 
upon a minimum scale. 

14. In cases in which it is necessary to give relief it is 
essential that the principles upon which such relief shall 
be given shall be definitely laid down by the Committee 
in order that persons in similar circumstances may receive 
similar treatment. 

15. For this branch of their work the Committee will 
doubtless find it desirable to appoint a special sub-com- 
mittee or sub-committees composed of members who are 
specially experienced in the relief of distress. 

16. In determining the allowance to be made the 
Committee should take into consideration all the sources 
of income at present available for the household. As 
suggested in the circular letter of the I7th August, they 
should take steps to ascertain whether the applicant or any 
members of his family are in receipt of sickness, disable- 
ment, or unemployment benefit, whether they are receiving 
half-pay or any assistance from their employers or are 
on part-time employment, whether the children are receiv- 


ing meals provided by the education authority, and whether 
they are receiving aid from charitable funds or any othei 

17. So far as practicable, allowances should be made, 
not in money, but by way of food tickets on local shops 
or stores. These tickets should be given to the women 
rather than to the men. 

In this document there is still no guidance on the 
question of scales of relief, and no attempt to deter 
Committees from deterrent methods of administering 
relief. On the other hand, there is a clearer insistence 
on the need for providing as much useful employment 
as possible at regular wages, and it is emphasised that 
the labour for such work should be taken on in the 
ordinary way. " Relief " works were not to be in- 
stituted till everything had been done to maintain the 
volume of employment. At the same time, further 
defects emerge : renewed stress is laid on the objection- 
able circular of August 17, and in clause 12 a definite 
beginning is made in the system of economic compul- 
sion to enlist, which has since been carried further, 
and was, in fact, carried further at the time by some 
Local Committees. Moreover, the objectionable system 
of giving food tickets instead of money was recom- 
mended to the Committees. 

This last provision at once led to abuses, of which 
the action taken by the Newcastle Relief Committee 
was only a particularly glaring example. This Com- 
mittee, not content with issuing food tickets, actually 
published a " list of goods which may be purchased in 
exchange for Food Coupons at prices as under," and 
proclaimed that " only goods named in above list 
are purchasable with a Food Coupon." Thus the 
workers had their diet prescribed to them by the 


Relief Committee, and, in addition, there was no 
provision for the purchase of clothes or other necessaries 
besides food. 

Such extreme examples were fortunately excep- 
tional, and the worst cases were corrected by the Local 
Government Board under pressure from the Workers' 
National Committee. Lesser abuses, however, pre- 
vailed to an alarming extent, and the workers not only 
found their right to representation refused in many 
districts, but also, where they were represented, could 
do little against the combined efforts of " charitable " 
persons and capitalist representatives. All over the 
country the Relief Committees earned an unpopularity 
which did much to irritate the workers, and was calcu- 
lated to destroy that sense of national unity which the 
Government presumably desired to stimulate. 

Nor was this the only complaint made against the 
Government's scheme. The Government Committee 
early in August issued an appeal for the centralisation 
of all Relief Funds. Local needs, they said, would be 
relieved out of the National Fund, and there was no 
need for separate local funds. This manoeuvre having 
succeeded, everything obviously depended on the 
administration of the central fund, which soon amounted 
to several million pounds. It is quite clear that the 
Government soon decided that its policy should be to 
spend as little as possible. 120,000 was granted at 
once for the relief of distress among the families of 
soldiers and sailors ; but the Local Committees found 
the greatest difficulty in getting grants. For a long 
time the National Relief Fund maintained the greatest 
possible secrecy as to its disbursements, and when at 
last a very incomplete account of its work up to March i 
was issued, it was found that 1,400,000 had already 


been expended on relief for the families of soldiers and 
sailors, a charge which should obviously have fallen, 
not on a fund intended primarily for the relief of civil 
distress, but on the Government directly. 

Not only was parsimony the ruling principle of 
those who administered the National Relief Fund : 
efforts were also made to economise in other directions. 
The Government had only attempted at the outset 
to justify its relief policy on the ground that relief 
should be a last resort, and that everything should 
first be done to maintain the volume of employment. 
But such a policy was totally contradicted by the 
speech which the Chancellor of the Exchequer made 
to representatives of the municipalities on September 8 
a speech which, carefully worded as it was in order 
to enable the Chancellor to reply to critics, bore in 
every sentence the moral that local authorities should 
economise. Mr. Lloyd George referred to the immense 
financial needs of the war, which, he said, would be 
fought with silver bullets. No one who heard or read 
his speech could help going away with the impression 
that he desired as little money as possible to be spent. 
The following paragraph contains the gist of his 
speech : 

We must relieve distress. We must see that our people 
suffer as little as is possible under these terrible conditions, 
and therefore we are prepared to meet you, but we do not 
want a penny spent which is not absolutely essential to 
relieve distress, because, after all, if you go into the market 
it is the same market we go into. We raise the 10 millions 
for you in the same market as we raise the 10 millions for 
our armies on the Continent. Therefore, in my judgment, 
the last few hundred millions may win this war. This is 
my opinion. 

Mr. Samuel, on behalf of the Local Government 


Board, also made a significant reply. For the present, 
he said, the Local Government Board only asked local 
authorities to prepare schemes which must necessarily 
take some time to elaborate, so that if in any locality 
distress arose, or was imminent, these schemes could 
be put into operation without a moment's delay. He 
also expressed his fear that distress would be far worse 
after the war. 

These two speeches should be read in connection 
with Mr. Samuel's speech in the House of Commons 
two days later, when, as we have seen, he said that 
there was no evidence of any widespread distress. In 
fact, the Government, having been to some extent 
stampeded into adopting the policy of preventing 
unemployment at the beginning of the war, were openly 
anxious to abandon it by the beginning of September, 
partly because the distress was, in fact, less than they 
had anticipated, and partly because they had realised 
what the prevention of unemployment was likely to 
cost. By working for the mere relief of distress through 
inquisitorial and deterrent Local Committees, they did 
succeed in getting off very cheaply of course at the 
cost of the workers. 

With the Government's special policy in dealing 
with distress among women which, as we have seen, 
was more serious than among men we shall be con- 
cerned in a later chapter. Here I will only mention 
the formation, in the third week of August, of the 
Queen's Work for Women Fund and the appointment of 
an Advisory Committee, on which women workers were 
very strongly represented. Whatever the merits of this 
scheme, it is certain that the Government itself deserves 
little of the credit for it. 

We are now in a position to comment upon the 


Government's provision for the relief and prevention 
of distress taken as a whole. The first thing that 
emerges is the considerable divergence between its 
professions and its practice. Proclaimed with a great 
flourish of trumpets, the policy of preventing un- 
employment was, in the majority of cases, soon allowed 
to lapse, while in relieving actual distress the Govern- 
ment and its advisory Committees were as parsimonious 
as they dared to be. 

Criticism, however, can be levelled not only at the 
administration of the Government's scheme, but also 
at the scheme itself. In the first place, the whole idea 
of relieving distress out of a national voluntary fund 
was bound to lead to parsimony. The existence of the 
Prince of Wales 's Fund all along hindered the pro- 
vision of any effective relief, because it seemed to 
relieve the Government of any further responsibility. 
The avoidance of responsibility and the shuffling off 
of it on to other incompetent bodies seems, indeed, to 
have been the chief characteristic of the Government's 

Secondly, the working of relief through the Local 
Committees was at once a further avoidance of re- 
sponsibility and a grave mistake in itself. The Local 
Committees, as we have seen, usually adopted the 
mental outlook of the Charity Organisation Society 
and similar bodies. Relief was given to those in distress 
owing to the war, not as a right, but on conditions and 
as a charitable dole. 

Yet surely the Government might have realised 
that the distress due to the war was altogether different 
from the distress of normal times. The war brought 
certain industries to a standstill, and reduced to dis- 
tress, not the submerged tenth of the industrial popula- 


tion, but the ordinary regular and self-respecting wage- 
earners. To offer such workers relief on the principles 
on which relief in this country is ordinarily administered 
was an insult and an outrage. It was cheap, no doubt ; 
but it was also mean and dishonourable. The wage- 
earners who were thrown out of work by the war had 
a right to demand, not conditional relief, but either 
work at wages or unconditional maintenance. They 
should have been given not doles but wages, and, 
instead of being watched and abused at every turn, 
they should have been left no less free in the spending 
of their allowances than the Trade Unionist is free hi 
the spending of his unemployment benefit, or the 
worker under Part II. of the Insurance Act in the 
spending of his State benefit. 

It is not very profitable now to go into details con- 
cerning the more statesmanlike courses that were 
open to the Government. Wholesale extension of 
Part II. of the Insurance Act to all workers, which 
was one of the courses suggested, was probably not the 
best way ; but it would not have been difficult to 
devise a scheme whereby the payment of benefit to all 
persons thrown out of work could have been adminis- 
tered by the Labour Exchanges on the same principle 
as they now administer Part II. Workers would have 
been compelled as indeed they generally were to 
register at the Exchanges, and unconditional out-of- 
work pay could have been given them till work at 
reasonable wages was found for them. Such a policy 
would have had the merit of recognising the right of 
the citizen to maintenance by the community in a 
crisis not of his making, and it would have saved the 
workers from the charity-mongering excesses of un- 
employed members of the upper and middle classes. 


A truly democratic Government would have com- 
bined this remedy with another of far greater signifi- 
cance. Instead of neglecting Trade Unionism, which 
has built up a great machine capable of being used for 
the prevention of distress, it would have taken the 
Trade Unions into partnership, and would have used 
them as organs of the nation. A scheme on these lines 
was actually put forward early in the war. 1 The Trade 
Unions might have been subsidised by the State to the 
extent of any disbursements beyond the average of 
recent years which they might have to make to their 
unemployed members ; and, further, a grant might 
have been given to enable those who joined a Union 
to come into benefit at once, without the usual pro- 
bationary periods. The adoption of such a scheme 
would have made the Trade Unions, which understand 
the work, the Government's accredited agents in the 
distribution of unemployment pay, and would have 
left the Local Committees or better the Labour 
Exchanges the residuary task of relieving those who 
remained outside the Unions. 

Such a course, however, which would have involved 
the national recognition of Trade Unionism, did not 
find favour with the Wilful Wontsees of the Liberal 
Government. They chose the cheapest method, and 
refused to grant either rights or responsibilities to the 
organised workers. Thus even the far too moderate 
requests made by the representatives of Trade Unionism 
were first shelved and then, for the most part, refused. 

Having summarised and commented generally upon 
the Government's action, we may now turn to the 

1 See the Nation, September 5 (Trade Unions and the War), 
September 19 and October 3 (Relief or Maintenance) ; and articles 
by the present writer in the Manchester Guardian for September n 
and 23. 



Labour criticism and demand. Unfortunately this 
demand pursued two independent courses, which there 
was for a long time little or no attempt to co-ordinate. 
On the one hand we have the Workers' National 
Committee, accepting in principle the Government 
scheme and trying to get the Government to put its 
principles into practice ; on the other hand, we find 
the Trade Unions, through the Joint Board, pressing 
the Government for special help to tide them over 
the crisis. We must deal separately with these two 
aspects of the Labour demand. 

The War Emergency : Workers' National Committee 
was formed at a conference of Labour and Socialist 
bodies held on August 5, which elected an Executive 
Committee representative of the Trades Union Con- 
gress, the General Federation of Trade Unions, the 
Labour Party, the Miners' Federation, the National 
Union of Railwaymen, the Women's Trade Union 
League, the Women's Labour League, the British 
Socialist Party, and the Fabian Society. To these 
were added subsequently the Co-operative Union, the 
Co-operative Wholesale Society, the Textile Factory 
Workers' Association, the Transport Workers' Federa- 
tion, the Women's Co - operative Guild, and other 
bodies. It is thus in one sense the most representative 
Labour body there has ever been, inasmuch as no body 
has contained members from so many sections of the 
Labour movement. In another sense it is not repre- 
sentative at all ; for most of its members were never 
appointed by the organisations they are there to 
represent. The Committee was elected by the Con- 
ference, which was a self-appointed body. But, 
despite its constitutionally anomalous position, the 
Workers' National Committee does deserve to be called 


the most representative Labour body that has ever 
existed, for never before have the Trade Unions, the 
Labour Party, the Co-operators, the Socialist Societies, 
and the women's Labour bodies worked together in a 
single great organisation. Labour has long needed such 
a co-ordinating Committee, and attempts have from 
time to time been made to form one, never with any 
chance of immediate success, till the war crisis came 
as a dissolvent of old animosities. It is to be hoped 
that the excellent beginning will have a still better 
continuation ; not only that the Committee will per- 
sist after the war, but also that it will be regularised 
and democratised. It needs to be made really repre- 
sentative of the bodies whose members now compose 
it : it needs to have its functions denned and its 
constitution approved. The useful work of criticism 
it has done already leads to the hope that either it or 
its successor will do much in the future to remedy 
the prevailing disorder of Labour organisation. 

The Conference of August 5, which created the 
Workers' National Committee, itself passed the follow- 
ing resolutions : 

That arrangements be made at once to press upon 
the Government and municipal authorities measures for 
officially controlling : (a) the purchase and storage of 
food ; (b) the fixing of maximum prices of food and trade 
necessities ; and (c) the distribution of food. 

That the citizen committees proposed to be set up be 
urged to guard against the exploitation of the people by 
unnecessarily high prices. 

That an appeal be issued to all Labour, Socialist, 
Co-operative, and women's organisations to render whole- 
hearted assistance in the work of the citizen committees. 

That the Government be urged to appoint a standing 
departmental committee to stimulate and co-ordinate the 


efforts of Government departments, local authorities, and 
other employers to maintain the aggregate volume of 
employment by keeping their staffs at the fullest possible 
strength, and, if circumstances allow, to undertake addi- 
tional enterprises in order to prevent the occurrence of as 
much unemployment as possible. 

That an appeal be made to the Government for the 
powers under the Development Commission and Road 
Board, together with the Unemployed Workmen Act, to 
be put into extensive operation in order that works of 
public utility may be expedited. 

That an appeal be made to the Board of Education to 
use its influence on local education authorities to adopt 
the Education (Provision of Meals) Act, including the 
powers contained in the Amending Bill about to become 

That the Local Government Board be requested to 
issue a circular to health committees calling upon them to 
arrange to supply milk to nursing mothers, infants, young 
children, and sick people. 

Thus, at the outset, the Conference adopted the 
policy of demanding the prevention of unemployment 
in preference to the mere relief of distress as it occurred. 
At the same time, it urged Government control of 
food prices, and called on local authorities to adopt 
the Provision of Meals Act, which, partly through 
Labour pressure, was amended so as to extend its 
scope and make it easier of general adoption. 

The Executive Committee, which has met regularly 
through the war, lost no time in getting to work ; 
nor was there any dearth of work for it to perfomi. 
Throughout the early months of the war it was kept 
busy in attempting to hold the Government to its 
promises. It began with an effort to secure adequate 
Labour representation on the Local Committees. For 
instance, early in September, Mr. J. S. Middleton, 


the Secretary, wrote to the Local Government Board 
giving a list of districts, including several important 
industrial centres, in which the local bodies had ignored 
the Government's circular advising the representation 
of Trade Unions on the Committees. In this work it 
was in the main successful, though, as we have seen, 
the Trade Union representatives were in almost all 
cases too few to alter the character of the local bodies. 

The outstanding activity of the Workers' National 
Committee in August was its advocacy of the policy of 
preventing unemployment. A Memorandum, issued 
early in the month by the Fabian Society, drew atten- 
tion to the importance of this policy. It had a wide 
circulation in this form, and attracted still more notice 
when it appeared in an enlarged form as a pamphlet 
by Mr. Sidney Webb, entitled The War and the Workers. 
Suffering yet another metamorphosis, it reappeared 
in a different form as The War Emergency : Suggestions 
for Labour Members on Local Committees, published 
by the Workers' National Committee. In fact, the 
Workers' National Committee was engaged, during 
the earlier months, in pushing a policy sketched out 
for it by the Fabian Society, or, what is much the 
same, by Mr. Sidney Webb. 

In its advocacy of the prevention of unemployment 
in preference to the mere relief of distress, this policy 
was essentially sound, though, as we saw, the Govern- 
ment lost no time in shuffling out of it as soon as they 
found their chance. In the form advocated by Mr. 
Webb, it was open to mere objection. Where useful 
and productive work could not be found, Mr. Webb 
urged, on the lines of conditional relief laid down in the 
Minority Report of the Poor Law Commission, that 
the Local Committees should " find really educational 


employment." Instead of recommending uncondi- 
tional maintenance, Mr. Webb wished to hand over the 
unemployed to the tender mercies of the Committees, 
in order that the men might be " taught how to cook 
and to sew and to cobble " and the women taken on at 
Women's Training Centres. There could be no objec- 
tion to such provisions if they were voluntary ; but 
Mr. Webb's suggestion was that they should be the 
conditions on which alone relief could be obtained. 
He refused to recognise the workers' right to uncondi- 
tional maintenance, and conceded only a conditional 

These objectionable provisions, however, entered 
less into the Committee's work than the completely 
sound attempt to secure the maintenance of the 
volume of employment. They continually recom- 
mended schemes of various kinds to the Government, 
particularly building and improvement schemes suitable 
for execution by local bodies with State assistance. 
This, however, is far from exhausting the catalogue 
of their early activities. Soon they realised the 
unwillingness of the self-respecting Trade Unionist 
to appeal to the Local Committees. To meet this 
difficulty they continued their efforts to improve the 
Committees, and, further, issued the following resolu- 
tion on August 25 : 

The committee strongly urges upon all wage -earners 
who may be thrown out of work or become poverty-stricken 
to apply at once for employment or relief to the organised 
national or local committees before they attempt to sell 
or pawn any of their furniture or personal effects. 

In the case of persons who apply for Poor Law relief, 
if it is clear that they need relief in consequence of the war, 
they should not be paid out of the rates but out of the 


special fund until such time as they can be dealt with by 
the local committee. 

That there should have been need for such a resolu- 
tion is the best possible indication of the lamentable 
spirit displayed by many Local Committees. 

By September the general lines of the Government 
policy were settled, and attention shifted to questions 
of administration. Foremost among these was the 
question of the scale of relief to be adopted by the 
Local Committees. It was not until the fourth week 
of October that the Government Committee and the 
Executive Committee of the National Relief Fund 
jointly fixed model scales of relief, which were to 
operate with only slight variations over the whole 
country. The official scales, arrived at after consider- 
able dispute, were as follows, and it was further an- 
nounced that, in determining the amount of relief to 
be granted, all sources of income available to the 
household should be taken into account, with the 
exception of income from savings, including sickness 
and unemployment benefit : outside 

London. London, 

s. d. s. d. 

One adult . . . .100 80 

Two adults . . . 14 o 12 o 

Each additional adult . .46 46 

Two adults and one child . 15 6 1 13 6 1 

Two adults and two children . 17 o 1 15 o 1 

Two adults and three children . 18 6 1 16 6 1 

Two adults and four children . 20 o 1 18 o 1 

Maximum coming into household 20 o 18 o 

1 Less 6d. per week in respect of each child receiving meals at 

This totally inadequate scale, which in fact replaced 
an even lower one that had been communicated 
privately to the L.G.B. inspectors, was opposed by 


the Workers' National Committee which had already, 

on October 5, laid down the scale which it considered 

adequate, and forwarded its recommendation to the 

Committee of the National Relief Fund. The scale 

suggested by Labour was this : s- d- 

One adult . . . . . 12 6 

Two adults . . . . 17 6 

One adult and one child . . . 15 o 

Two adults and one child . . 20 o 

Two adults and two children . . 22 6 

2s. 6d. for each additional child, and an additional 
33. 6d. for adoption in London boroughs. 

Thus the Committee fought in vain to secure from 
the Government the adoption of a twenty-shilling family 
minimum. There were only a few Local Committees 
that defied the Government by continuing to pay relief 
on a more adequate scale. 

No sooner had Labour suffered defeat in the combat 
for a more satisfactory scale than a new cause of dispute 
arose. 1 At the beginning of the war a good many 
Trade Unions imposed levies on their members on 
behalf of the National Relief Fund, on the understand- 
ing that their members in distress would receive relief 
from it on an adequate scale. This was done especially 
by the miners ; but it was not long before dissatis- 
faction with the administration of the Fund became 
articulate and threatening. On November 23 a 
deputation was appointed to interview the Executive 
of the Fund on the position of Trade Unionists in 
relation to it. The complaints were in the first place 
that relief was refused until the applicant was in a 

1 All through this period the Committee was also engaged in 
a vain struggle to secure the exclusive use of the National Relief 
Fund for civil distress, while the Government showed itself bent 
on securing all it could for the dependents of soldiers and sailors. 


state of destitution, and in the second that in- 
quisitorial methods were being adopted. On both 
points the reply was that such was not the intention 
of the L.G.B. circulars ; but nothing was done. 
The Workers' National Committee thereupon made 
the demand " that the Government Committee should 
agree to arrangements being made for Trade Unions 
to collect contributions for the National Relief Fund 
from their respective memberships, to dispense relief 
to their necessitous members, and to remit the balances 
to the Central Fund." The refusal of the South Wales 
miners to go on paying into the Fund on the old terms 
had already led to the adoption of such a scheme 
in their case, and the Government now declared its 
willingness to consider proposals for extending the 

No wonder Trade Unionists, who for months had 
been paying perhaps sixpence a week voluntarily into 
the Fund, resented the inquisitions to which they were 
submitted as soon as they wanted anything out of it. 
There can have been few such contributors who did 
not realise bitterly that the whole policy of Trade 
Union contributions to the Relief Fund had been a 
mistake, and that the Unions would have been far 
better advised to form a central fund of their own for 
the relief of distress among Trade Unionists, or like the 
National Union of Teachers, 1 to form special funds for 
the relief of their own members. The same disgust 
at the administration of the National Fund as led some 
localities to raise Local Funds of their own soon spread 
among the workers ; the Government's tardy recogni- 
tion of the bare possibility of granting Trade Unionists 

1 This policy was only adopted by the National Union of Teachers 
when, having paid large sums into the National Relief Fund, they 
became thoroughly disgusted with its administration. 


some sort of share in the administration of relief came 
much too late to be of use and has, in fact, been almost 

It is impossible even to outline the whole of the 
immense mass of detailed work done by the Workers' 
National Committee during the earlier months of the 
war. No one who reads through its minutes can help 
being struck by the wide range of the subjects discussed. 
There are only one or two further aspects of its work 
to which I have space to refer. It is impossible to pass 
by without mention the work of the special Government 
Contracts Sub - Committee, which became especially 
active about the middle of November, when the War 
Office's hut - building operations were in full swing. 
Both in pressing for the publication of full lists of 
Government contractors and in tracking down cases 
of sweating among hut-builders and clothing employers 
the Committee did admirable work. The Government 
Departments, especially the War Office, cold-shouldered 
it as much as they dared, and there is no doubt that 
much sweating went unnoticed and unchecked ; but 
there is equally little doubt that a vast deal of sweating 
was prevented by the activity of the Workers' National 
Committee. The widespread sub-letting of hut-build- 
ing contracts by War Office contractors was especially 
productive of sweating, and the Committee, before 
which many actual employees came to give evidence, 
was able to prove not merely sweating, but scandal- 
ously inflated profits in many cases. The Workers' 
National Committee pressed in vain for a full Govern- 
ment enquiry into contracts. Though this was never 
secured, it takes away nothing from the value of the 
Committee's work. 

With some aspects of the Committee's activities 


we shall have to deal later, when we come to the special 
questions to which they relate. Thus, I have reserved 
the whole question of Child Labour for a special section : 
all problems relating to women are treated in another 
chapter ; and the work of the Committee with regard 
to prices, which forms the second phase of its struggles 
with the Government, is reserved to the following 
chapter. Nor have I entered into its attempts to 
secure better payment for the dependents of soldiers 
and sailors, though this campaign, started on October 2 
by a letter from Mr. G. N. Barnes in the Daily Citizen, 
stood for some time in the forefront of the Labour 
programme, and actually achieved a very considerable 
raising of the allowances payable to dependents. I 
have said enough to show that the War Emergency : 
Workers' National Committee became the representa- 
tive Labour body, and to a great extent replaced 
Parliament as the organ of Labour's political criticism. 
Of defects I shall have something to say later on. 

So far we have been speaking only of one side of 
the Labour demand, which, as we saw, pursued, 
through the early months of the war, two independent 
courses. While the Workers' National Committee was 
acting as watchdog for Labour in connection with 
relief work, the Joint Board, representing the united 
forces of Trade Unionism and the Labour Party, was 
pressing the Government for a fairer treatment of the 
Unions. As we have given reason for believing that 
the right course in the crisis would have been to make 
the Unions the national agencies for relief, it is import- 
ant to follow out the actual demand made by them in 
some detail. We shall see that they did not act in a 
manner calculated to get concessions from the Govern- 


In the first place, the Joint Board did not meet 
till August 24 to consider the report drawn up by 
Mr. Henderson on Trade Unions and the crisis. Mr. 
Henderson pointed out that the result of the war had 
been to produce in some Unions a very high rate of 
unemployment, which, if it continued, would mean 
insolvency. The funds of the Unions, he said, could 
only be realised, on short notice and in the war emer- 
gency, at very great loss, while in some cases the funds 
would be quite insufficient to meet the situation. He 
urged the Joint Board to agree on a policy and to 
approach the Prime Minister with a view to its adoption. 

After discussion, the Joint Board appointed a 
deputation, and passed a series of resolutions. It 
should be noticed that the closing of all strikes was 
recommended unconditionally, and not on condition 
of the Government's granting the Unions' requests. 
The Unions, on the other hand, were only asked to 
subscribe to the Prince of Wales's Fund " in the event 
of the Government agreeing to make the necessary 
provision for unemployment." None the less, the 
refusal of the Government did not prevent many of 
them from subscribing. Labour pursued its usual 
policy of giving first and then appealing in vain to the 
gratitude of the Government. Moreover, as we shall 
see, the very vagueness of the demand made it easier 
for the Government to refuse the requests conveyed 
in the following resolutions, which were sent to the 
Prime Minister together with the request that a 
deputation should be received : 

i. That an immediate effort be made to terminate all 
existing trade disputes, whether strikes or lock-outs, and 
whenever new points of difficulty arise during the war 
period a serious attempt should be made by all concerned 


to reach an amicable settlement before resorting to a 
strike or lock-out. 

2. That the Government be requested to use its influence 
with the employing classes so that wherever possible there 
may be brought about a complete cessation of overtime 
in order that unemployment may be minimised. It is 
also suggested that short time should become operative 
in any trade or workshop where full time cannot be main- 
tained rather than that the non - employment of many 
workers should be rendered necessary. 

3. That the Government be requested to take into 
consideration the serious position in which Trade Unions 
must inevitably be placed if compelled to use their funds 
to make provision for unemployment existing during the 
war period, and to take steps through the provision of an 
appropriation grant for subsidising the unions or by giving 
the necessary assistance through the local Relief Com- 
mittees, which will enable all working-class citizens to 
obtain uniform assistance and incidentally enable the 
unions to continue the payment of sick, superannuation, 
and similar beneficent benefits. 

4. That in the event of the Government agreeing to 
make the necessary provision for unemployment those 
unions whose rules provide for unemployment benefit 
agree to suspend to the extent of the weekly amount of 
the Government subsidy payment of this benefit during 
the war period, including the benefit under the Insurance 
Act, Part II., and to carry into effect the following pro- 
posals : 

(a) That all members of the union called up as Reservists 
or as Territorials, or who may volunteer for 
service during the war period, shall be free from 
the payment of contributions and levies during 
their service in the ranks, when absent with the 
colours, except where rates of pay during such 
service equal or exceed ordinary trade rates, but 
to be reinstated on application upon resumption 
of civil life and upon production of certificate of 


(b) That the unions be recommended to urge upon 
their working members to subscribe liberally to 
the Prince of Wales's Fund. 

The deputation, which saw the Prime Minister on 
August 27, made two important requests. It asked, 
first, that where Unions found it necessary to realise 
their funds they should be helped in this respect by 
the Government ; and, in the second place, that the 
Government should give the Unions an appropriation 
grant to enable them to meet the drain on their funds. 
Throughout, though the deputation made its request 
gravely and Mr. Asquith answered " sympathetically," 
it was quite clear from the tone on both sides that 
neither expected anything to come of the interview. 
The following is a fair sample : 

The PRIME MINISTER I do not know exactly what 
you are asking. 

Mr. HENDERSON I am trying to explain if my two 
colleagues have not. 

The PRIME MINISTER They have pointed out the 
trouble and necessity for relief ; but I want you to put 
in a concrete form what you want the Government to do. 
I understand this proposal about insurance. I do not say 
whether it is practicable or not. That is quite intelligible. 
Let me call your attention to the words of the trade resolu- 
tion : "To take steps through the provision of an appropria- 
tion grant for subsidising the unions." 

Mr. HENDERSON That is the point I am coming to. 

The PRIME MINISTER I want to have that explained. 

Mr. HENDERSON I was proceeding to say that it was 
a tall order. It is a tall order. 

The PRIME MINISTER I am afraid it is a very tall 
order ; but I want to know how tall it is. 

In reality the trouble was not that the order was 
too tall, but that it was not tall enough. Had the 
Unions openly demanded the exclusive right to 


administer relief to their members, they would have 
had a far better chance of securing it than they had 
of securing an appropriation grant to save them from 
insolvency. They went as petitioners in bankruptcy ; 
they should have gone with a demand for responsibility. 
The Prime Minister evidently saw that for the time 
being there was nothing to fear from the Unions. He 
therefore returned an evasive answer and tried to 
shelve the whole question. The Joint Board was kept 
waiting for its answer till October, and then the 
Government produced a scheme which bore only the 
most distant resemblance to the demands made by the 
deputation. No help was to be afforded to the Unions 
in the realisation of their funds : all that was given 
was an extension of the subsidies made to Unions 
under Clause 106 of the Insurance Act. Under that 
Act, any Union, on complying with stringent conditions, 
could obtain from the Board of Trade a refund of 
one-sixth of its total expenditure on Unemployment 
Insurance. To this were now, in certain cases, to be 
added special emergency grants. These grants, how- 
ever, were only to be made on the following conditions : 

1. That the Association should be suffering from 
abnormal unemployment. 

2. That the Association should not pay Unemploy- 
ment Benefit above a maximum rate of 173. per week 
(including any sum paid by way of State Unemployment 

3. That the Association should agree while in receipt 
of the emergency grant to impose levies over and above 
the ordinary contributions upon those members who remain 
fully employed. 

The amount of the emergency grant (in addition to the 
refund of one-sixth already payable) will be either one- 
third or one-sixth of the expenditure of the Association 


on Unemployment Benefit (exclusive of Strike Benefit). 
The rate of the grant will be determined by the amount of 
the levy in accordance with the following scale : 

Maximum rate of Unemployment Benefit 
paid by Association. 

Rate of Weekly Levy required to 
obtain Emergency Grant of 



Not more than 173. . . . 
,, ,, ,, 153. . . . 


4 d. 


I 33. 

For example, an Association paying unemployment 
benefit at the rate of 12s. a week will by imposing a levy 
of 2d. per week on the employed members be qualified 
for an emergency grant of one-third of its expenditure, 
i.e. a total refund of one-half, taking into account the 
present refund of one-sixth. 

The same Association, if it prefers only to impose a 
levy of id. per week, will be qualified for an emergency 
grant of one-sixth, i.e. for a total refund of one-third. 

Associations paying higher rates of benefit would have 
to impose higher levies in order to qualify for the same 
proportionate refunds. 

Applications will also be entertained for emergency 
grants, which will be subject to special conditions, in 
respect of expenditure already incurred by Associations 
on unemployment benefit since August 4, 1914. 

Many of the conditions attaching to this scheme 
are obviously unfair in their incidence. It seems, 
in fact, to be worked on the principle that " unto him 
that hath shall be given." Where a Union is rich 
enough to pay out large sums in benefit, and able in 
addition to exact a sixpenny levy, it secures a pro- 
portionately large refund : where it is too poor to pay 
much in benefits and unable to exact so high a levy, 


it gets nothing. Moreover, the whole principle of a 
compulsory levy was surely wrong. Unemployment 
due to the war should be a charge upon the community 
and not upon the trade affected. As I said before, 
the statesmanlike course would have been to refund to 
the Unions all sums over the average of past years 
spent on out-of-work benefit. Here, too, however, the 
Government desired to get off as cheaply as possible, 
and had no desire to give the Unions any share in 
national responsibility. How cheaply they have got 
off appears from the following table, which shows the 
amounts spent on emergency grants up to the end of 

Applications Granted. 

Trade Group. 

Number of 


Amounts Paid. 

s. d. 

Building . 




Metal ! . 



1,165 JI 2 

Cotton 2 . 



64,772 4 7 

Other Textile 



2,120 13 Q 

Printing . 



4,948 13 8 



I7,3 2 

1,801 7 o 

Other Trades 3 



1,943 8 8 




76,756 5 i 

1 Textile Machinery and Jewellery workers. 
a Including Bleaching, Dyeing, and Finishing in Cotton. 
3 Leather workers, Basket makers, Hatters, Tobacco (Cigar) 
workers, etc. 

Thus, the total grant amounts to 76,000 for seven 
months, and of this 64,000 has gone to the cotton 
industry. Yet we know from the annual reports of 
the cotton Trade Unions that this sum has been 
utterly inadequate to save them from enormous losses 



on last year's working. For the first quarter after the 
beginning of the war, the Oldham Cardroom Association 
alone expended 23,000, and to set against it an income 
of only 7500, a loss of well over 15,000 on the quarter's 
working. The Government's scheme was miserly to 
the last degree, and it is to be hoped that the Unions 
will remember it against them in the future. 

This brings us to the end of our double survey of 
the Labour demand and of the Government's action 
for the relief of distress. This we may call the first 
phase in the relations between Labour and the State 
during the war. In the main, it clearly amounts to a 
defeat of the Labour forces, due mainly to the fact 
that a Government hostile to Labour was in possession 
of the national resources, but also partly to the failure 
of Labour itself to press its case. A more determined 
demand at the beginning might well have saved much 
of the bickering that has happened since. 

The commercial interests affected by the war made 
no such mistake, as indeed they encountered no such 
determined opposition. Throughout, where business has 
been unable to go on "as usual," business has been com- 
pensated. 1 Labour alone has been expected to make 
every sacrifice without return or gratitude. Employed, 
even the war worker was sometimes handed over to the 
sweater ; unemployed, he fell into the clutches of the 
Relief Committee : as consumer, he was the victim of 
profiteers whom the Government would not control ; 
but as soon as he stirred a finger in his own interest, he 
was proclaimed a traitor and ordered back to work. 

I come now to the second phase to the struggle of 
Labour against high prices and exploitation. 

1 Business not necessary for the war has been allowed to suffer 
along with labour. 



WE have seen that Labour, or rather the Labour 
leaders, proclaimed an industrial truce without any 
guarantee that the existing rates of real wages would 
be maintained. Laying down the sword of industrial 
action, they trusted to the Government to secure them 
against exploitation by a rise in prices. Any encourage- 
ment they may have received from the Government's 
action during the first weeks of August has certainly 
not been reinforced since then. All the demands of 
Labour for the reduction of food and coal prices were 
treated either with a bare denial of their possibility 
or with a contemptuous " Wait till June." 

The struggle of Labour against high prices forms the 
second phase of its conflict with the Government. As 
we shall see, it was not until the " prices campaign " 
had been definitely proved fruitless that the real 
industrial unrest began. Labour did everything it 
could to persuade the Government to take action on 
the nation's behalf : it was only in face of a definite 
refusal that some of the rank and file determined all 
too hesitantly to take action on behalf of themselves 
and their fellows. The Labour unrest followed the 
prices campaign, and was to a great extent a result 



of its failure. There can be little doubt that the policy 
of making the prices campaign the first plank in the 
Labour platform was from the first a mistake. Many 
among the rank and file felt this all along, and an 
earlier wages campaign would certainly have met with 
a far more satisfactory response. 

It is a commonplace, as well as an obvious fact, 
that every rise in prices means a fall in real wages 
unless it is counterbalanced by a corresponding advance. 
The trick of nullifying wage advances by means of a 
rise in prices is well known to capitalism, and the rise 
in the cost of living is often used by the workers as 
an argument for an increase in rates of wages. The 
industrial truce left the employers free to raise prices, 
while it prevented the workers from securing higher 
wages. It therefore involved an immediate fall in 
the real rates of wages. 

It is often said, by those who admit the fall in 
standard rates, that the balance was in fact restored 
by the increase in actual earnings. Increased rapidity 
in production, better factory organisation, Sunday 
labour, and overtime, we are told, increased the actual 
earnings of the workers more than the rise in prices 
depressed them. This extraordinary argument gives 
rise to several important considerations. 

In the first place, the workers, it seems, ought to be 
content to work longer hours for the same real reward. 
This argument is presumably based on the plea for 
" sacrifice among all classes," of which we shall have 
more to say later on. Here let us only notice that it 
totally ignores the effect on the worker of overtime, 
Sunday labour, and speeding-up (which is what is 
usually meant by " better factory organisation "). 
Labour for long hours, seven days or even six days a 


week, means overstrain and physical harm, and leads 
in many cases to sickness and prolonged absence from 
work. Large earnings in one week may, then, often 
be counterbalanced by no earnings at all the week 
after. When to long hours is added work done under 
abnormal conditions of speeding-up (in the name of 
national service) the risk is multiplied twofold. 
Higher earnings for a time are poor payment for long- 
lived, or even permanent impairment of earning power. 
Secondly, there is an even greater flaw in the 
" higher earnings " argument. It is true that, in 
certain trades, not a few workers are earning money 
more than adequate to meet the rise in the cost of 
living. Let it be added that, for the work they have 
done, they richly deserve far more than they have got. 
It is also true that the transference of labour from one 
occupation to another has resulted in very many cases 
in largely increased earnings. The silver workers of 
Sheffield and the jewellery workers of Birmingham, 
for instance, who are now doing work on munitions, are 
earning as a rule far more than they ever earned at their 
old trades. But, admitting these cases, what are we 
to say of the distribution of the increase ? The higher 
earnings have come only to certain workers in certain 
highly necessary jobs : millions of workers in other 
industries, no less truly necessary, have had no share 
in them. Many were working short time or not at all 
during the early months of the war : not a few, despite 
the shortage of Labour, are still unemployed or on 
short time. In many cases these workers have even 
now received no advances in wages : in nearly all, 
the earlier months of the war meant for them a serious 
fall in real wages and earnings, and often in nominal 
wages and earnings as well. Those who have gained 


in purchasing power are, on the one hand, the workers 
in some skilled trades whose gains are almost wholly 
the result of increased exertion and overtime and, 
on the other, the dependents of some of the less skilled 
workers who have enlisted. A vast army of wage- 
earners, especially among those who could least afford 
it, have lost heavily in real earnings as a result of the 

The reason why Labour decided to inaugurate a 
" Food Prices Campaign " now becomes apparent. It 
needed a programme which would have something 
to offer to every class of worker, that would do some- 
thing to relieve the pressure in every working-class 
household, that would help not only the organised 
Trade Unionists, but also the vast mass of helpless 
and grossly underpaid male and female labour that 
could do nothing to help itself. All grades of workers 
alike needed greater purchasing power, and this a fall 
in food prices would give them. 

Add to this the ascertained fact that in certain 
quarters large fortunes were being made by shipowners, 
coalowners, and coal merchants, purveyors and pre- 
parers of food and other classes of capitalists. Face 
to face with this exploitation, face to face with the 
common need of the community, the War Emergency : 
Workers' National Committee embarked upon its 
campaign in favour of lower prices for food and fuel. 
It failed : indeed, success was hardly to be expected. 
The Government was not frightened of the workers, 
and therefore it did nothing for them. 

Before we pass to the record of the Labour Food 
Prices campaign, it will be well to have before us the 
facts about the rise in prices and also the ascertained 
movements of rates of wages from month to month. 



The following table shows the rise in the retail prices 
of foodstuffs from August 1914 to June 1915. It is 
calculated so as to include those commodities in which 
there was no change of price as well as those which 
were affected by war conditions. It is compiled from 
successive issues of the Board of Trade Labour Gazette, 
and is the result of special information furnished from 
all the chief centres. It may therefore be regarded as 

























Large Towns . 














Small Towns and Villages 














The articles included are meat, fish, flour, bread, sugar, milk, potatoes, margarine, butter, 
cheese, eggs, tea, coffee, and cocoa. 

There has thus been a net increase in the cost of 
food of more than 30 per cent, and the upward tendency 
still continues. The 15 per cent increase during the 
first week of August was largely a panic increase, which 
was checked partly by the Government's action in 
fixing maximum prices, but still more by the natural 
evaporation of the panic. The disquieting fact is 
that since the middle of September there has been a 
continuous steady increase, most marked about the 
New Year, and that there is no indication that a climax 
has been reached. 

The real meaning of these percentages can be con- 
veyed more easily in terms of actual expenditure than 
by the percentage method of the Board of Trade. If 
a family was spending 255. on food during a week of 



last July, it would have to spend 335. at the end of 
May 1915 in order to secure the same amount of 
commodities. Since that date there has been a 
further increase. 

The only statistical comparison that can be made 
with this table showing the rise in prices is the table, 
published monthly by the Board of Trade, showing 
changes in rates of wages. This table which excludes 
rural workers, seamen, railwaymen, police and Govern- 
ment employees furnishes a fairly reliable guide to 
the movement of standard rates of wages, though not, 
of course, to the fluctuation of actual earnings. It 
should be mentioned that the decreases given in the 
table are in nearly all cases the result of automatic 
sliding scale agreements in the iron and steel trades 
and in coal-mining. 




Total Increase or 








per week. 


per week. 


per week. 

August . 







September . 



. . 


+ 173 





1 80 


+ 2,117 

November . 











+ 3.692 







+ 1,916 







+ 17,889 

March . 




+ 72,713 





+ 12,894 





+ 188,425 

1 This table excludes agricultural workers, seamen, railwaymen, police 
and Government employees. 

823,900 persons and 169,333 of this increase are accounted for by 
the mining industry. 


A corrected estimate in the Board of Trade Labour 
Gazette for May gives aggregate figures showing the 
net increase during the first five months of 1915. 
During the period from January to May, 1,987,444 
workers had their rates of wages changed, either per- 
manently or for the period of the war. The result of 
these changes was an increase of 343,374 per week, 
or an average of nearly y>. 6d. per head. 

It is important to notice how these increases were 
distributed among the various industries, and the 
mining industry alone accounted for 171,187, or half 
the total increase ; engineering and shipbuilding trades 
81,359, or rather less than half the remainder. The 
transport trades claimed 25,618, the textile trades 
(i.e. woollens) 15,665, the iron and steel trades 9310, 
and the building trades 3775. It will be seen that 
the important increases are confined to trades doing 
work essential for the conduct of the war. 

The biggest increase was in May, when a million 
workers engaged in coal-mining received increases ; but 
still little or nothing has been done for the workers in 
less essential industries. The demands of the cotton 
workers, for instance, have been rejected in the most 
cavalier manner by the cotton employers. Two 
million wage-earners form only a very small proportion 
of the whole number, and it is noticeable that women 
workers have received hardly any benefits. 

It is clear, then, that, apart from certain favoured 
industries which have been in a strong enough position 
to make terms, the rise in prices has meant a serious 
decline in the spending power of the workers. It 
remains to enquire to what causes the rise is to be 

As Professor Bowley has stated in a lecture on 


" Prices and Earnings in Time of War," only some of 
the causes are such as could be anticipated before the 
outbreak of war. The stoppage of supplies from 
certain Continental countries, higher insurance rates, 
and so on, were causes which could be calculated in 
advance. But, in fact, since the first weeks, these 
causes have been quite secondary in importance. 
Shipping has not been greatly interrupted, and insur- 
ance rates have been low in comparison with what 
was expected. 

On the other hand, causes which were not taken into 
account beforehand have had a very great effect. It 
was anticipated that the prices of home products 
would not greatly change. Here, no less than in the 
case of imports, calculations have been thrown out 
by the increase hi freight charges. The amount of 
shipping has been greatly curtailed by the com- 
mandeering of many vessels for Government service, 
while the German submarine campaign has also reduced 
the number of vessels available. The docks, working 
with reduced or less skilled staffs than normally, have 
had to cope with an immense mass of Government 
work, and there has been much congestion, involving 
expensive delays and storage of produce. The supply 
of railway trucks has not equalled the demand, or at 
any rate the supply has not been so organised as to 
meet the demand. Last, but not least, the power of 
monopoly, operating through the " rings " which 
control most of our principal industries, has been 
exercised unscrupulously at the expense of the people. 
The rise in prices has, in fact, been due even more to 
internal conditions than to the effect of the war on 
importation and exportation. 

The history of the attempts of Labour to combat 


the forces making for high prices will bring out these 
points in more detail. The Labour prices campaign 
falls into two distinct periods, the first extending 
from August to October 1914, and the second from 
January to March 1915. 

We have seen, in Chapter IV., that the programme 
outlined by the Labour Conference of August 5, which 
called the War Emergency : Workers' National Com- 
mittee into being, contained two general proposals. 
It pressed for the prevention of unemployment, and 
it passed the following significant recommendations : 

That arrangements be made at once to press upon the 
Government and municipal authorities measures for offici- 
ally controlling : (a) the purchase and storage of food ; 
(b) the fixing of maximum prices of food and trade neces- 
sities ; and (c) the distribution of food. 

That the citizen committees proposed to be set up be 
urged to guard against the exploitation of the people by 
unnecessarily high prices. 

These resolutions, as we saw, were passed during 
the first week of the war, when the first " panic " rise 
in prices was at its height. The upward movement 
began on August i, was accelerated on August 3, and 
reached its height on August 8, when prices were 
15 or 16 per cent above the July level. From that 
point there was a steady fall till September 12, when 
they were about 10 per cent above the July level. 
During this period of slightly falling prices following 
on the panic rise, negotiations were going on between 
the Workers' National Committee and the Board of 
Trade on the question of Government control ; but it 
was not till September 28, when the rise had set in 
anew, that energetic action began to be taken. On 
that date the Food Prices Sub-Committee presented a 


report in which it urged that the Board of Trade should 
be requested to state what action it was taking with 
regard to the supply of sugar, meat, and cereals, and 
that an interview should be requested with the Board 
of Agriculture on the development of agricultural 
resources. The week after, this last matter was 
pressed further by the passage of the following resolu- 
tion : 

That the price of wheat having risen to a figure (385. to 
455. per quarter) which allows a reasonable margin of profit 
for home growers, who are being advised, against the truest 
interests of the nation, to refrain from growing more wheat 
until prices rule considerably higher, this Committee is of 
opinion that the Government should appoint a Royal Com- 
mission on Wheat with the following definite objects : 

1. To commandeer all present stocks of English wheat 
at prices from 353. to 405. per quarter. 

2. To sell the same at current market prices. In case 
of a surplus to pay a bounty of 5 per cent to the growers 
and the balance into the Treasury. 

3. To secure that all holders of land other than market 
gardens up to five acres in extent shall put at least one-fifth 
of their holdings, where suitable, under wheat, and main- 
tain the same from year to year under the conditions set 
out above. 

On October 26 the Committee issued its programme, 
including the following demands dealing with food 
prices : 

5. The encouragement and development of home- 
grown food supplies by the National Organisation of Agri- 
culture, accompanied by drastic reductions of freight 
charges for all produce, in the interests of the whole people. 

6. Protection of the people against exorbitant prices, 
especially in regard to food, by the enactment of maxima 
and the commandeering of supplies by the nation wherever 


Thus already in October the burden of heavy 
freight charges was making itself felt and the need for 
a national campaign to deal with food prices was 
faintly realised. Nevertheless, the matter seems for 
the time to have been carried no further. The Food 
Prices Sub-Committee was allowed to lapse, and the 
Workers' National Committee turned its attention to 
other questions, especially to the pressing problem of 
the administration of the National Relief Fund, with 
which we have already dealt, and to the deplorable 
conditions under which Government contracts were 
being allotted and executed. 

The beginning of the real Prices Campaign dates 
from January 14, 1915, when the Workers' National 
Committee reissued its demand of October 5, and 
reappointed the Food Prices Sub-Committee. By 
this time food prices were considerably over 20 per 
cent above the pre-war level. 

The Sub -Committee lost no time. A week later 
it issued an exhaustive Memorandum dealing with 
wheat prices, tracing the rise unmistakably to the 
increased freight charges. It was pointed out that 
the commandeering of ships for Government service 
and, even more, the driving of German commerce from 
the seas, had created a situation highly favourable to 
British shipowners, who had not hesitated to exact 
the full monopoly prices for the service of their vessels. 
As a statement in the Journal of Commerce for 
November 27, 1914, declared : 

The opportunities now open to British shipping are 
obvious. There are no more cut rates by subsidised German 
vessels. German ships being swept off the sea, we have 
now no serious competitors in the carrying trade of the 


The Memorandum admits that congestion at the 
docks, due to the partial closing of the East Coast 
ports, has to some extent affected carrying charges ; 
but it goes on to prove that the actual rise in freights 
is in no way accounted for by the increase in standing 
charges. In short, it shows conclusively that ship- 
owners have not scrupled to exact full monopoly 
prices. In addition, it points out that many of our 
vessels continue to carry between foreign ports, and 
urges the recall of vessels flying the British flag for 
home service. Its general recommendation is in the 
following terms : 

That the most effective action that the Government can 
now take to reduce wheat prices is to intervene to remedy 
the deficiency in carrying-ships ; and we recommend, 
therefore, that the Government should at once take steps 
to obtain the control of more ships and itself bring the 
wheat from Argentina and Canada at the bare cost of 

From the wheat supply the Committee passed to 
the question of coal. A second Memorandum, dealing 
with Coal Prices, was issued on January 28. Here 
the Committee found itself faced with the exploitation 
of the consumer by three distinct groups of capitalists : 
coalowners, coal merchants, and shipowners. Some- 
times, where the colliery owned its own shipping or 
acted as its own merchant, a double profit was ac- 
cruing to it ; but as a rule there were found to be three 
distinct bodies of exploiters. 

The most astonishing fact revealed by the Com- 
mittee's enquiries was the margin of profit accruing 
to the London coal merchants on the cheaper kinds of 
coal. A large proportion of the output of the collieries 
is sold to manufacturers and merchants on contract 



prices arranged in advance ; but there generally 
remains a surplus, which is sold at current prices at 
the pit mouth. Basing its conclusions mainly on the 
conditions governing the London supply, the Com- 
mittee found that the great bulk of the house coal on 
sale had been contracted for at prices ruling before the 
war. Nevertheless, the prices at which the surplus 
coal was being sold by the colliery companies were 
found to be governing to a considerable extent the 
retail prices for all classes of coal. That is to say, the 
difference between contract prices and current prices, 
not to mention a big margin over either, was going into 
the pockets of the coal-merchants. 

This contention was fully borne out by the figures 
published by the Committee, showing the margin be- 
tween contract and current prices and advertised 
retail rates per ton in London : 

Contract Prices. 

Current Prices. 



prices in 
London. 1 








Best Wallsend 

s. d. 

s. d. 

s. d. 

s. d. 

s. d. 

s. d. 

s. d. 


32 o 

14 o 

8 2 

22 2 


8 2 

28 2 


32 o 

14 3 

7 6 

21 9 

19 o 

7 6 

26 6 

Derby Blights 

31 o 

13 6 

7 6 

21 O 

18 o 

7 6 

25 6 

Bright Nuts 

30 o 

12 6 

7 6 


18 o 

7 6 

25 6 

Best House 

30 o 

ii 6 

7 6 

19 o 

18 o 

7 6 

25 6 

Best Kitchen . 

30 o 

ii 3 

7 9 

19 o 

17 o 

7 9 

24 9 

Hard Cobbles . 

30 o 


6 7 

16 7 

17 o 

6 7 

23 7 

Hard Nuts 

30 o 

9 9 

7 6 

17 3 

17 o 

7 6 

24 6 


30 o 

9 9 

7 o 

16 9 

17 o 


24 o 

Stove Coal 

30 o 

9 9 

6 3 

16 o 

15 o 

6 3 

21 3 

1 NOTE. These prices are for deliveries of quarter ton or more. When 
bought by the cwt. by the poorer section of the people the prices vary 
from is. gd. to 2s. per cwt., or 353. to 403. per ton. 


The most important fact emerging from this table 
is that the margin of profit to the merchant is far 
greater in the cases of the cheaper kinds of coal than 
of the more expensive. In comparison with winter 
prices in 1913, the more expensive kinds of coal went 
up 2s. to 35. a ton, while the cheaper kinds went up 
from 6s. to 8s. Allowing 35. per ton, which is the 
usual estimate for cartage charges and cost of delivery, 
there is a marginal profit still to be accounted for of 
55. or 6s. in the case of the more expensive kinds of 
contract coal, and of no less than us. in the case of 
the cheaper varieties. The Memorandum points out 
that the supposed competition between the London 
coal merchants is really an illusion, that some firms 
trade under various names, apparently in competition 
one with another, and that prices are always fixed by 
a close ring. The case against the merchants is made 
out beyond the possibility of doubt : they exacted large 
monopoly profits throughout the winter of 1914-15. 

The case against the coalowners is less glaring, 
but no less clear. At the time when the Memorandum 
was issued, certain small rises in miners' wages in 
Cumberland and elsewhere had been more than balanced 
by reductions in Northumberland and Durham. The 
net result of all changes in miners' wages had been 
a considerable decrease. Nevertheless, though from 
September to November contract prices were higher 
than current prices at the pit mouth, there was already 
in the New Year a very considerable increase in current 
over contract prices, and no part of this had gone to 
the workers. As the advances subsequently obtained 
by the miners through arbitration conclusively prove, 
the coalowners, too, were exacting an exorbitant 


Thirdly, just as the increase in overseas freights had 
increased wheat prices, the increase in coasting freight 
charges affected the price of coal and diverted much 
coal from the sea to the railways. Thus additional 
congestion was created, and prices were forced yet 
higher. The colliery companies which own their own 
ships made a double profit. 

The Committee therefore issued the following 
recommendations : 

1. That maximum prices for coal should be fixed by the 

2. That railway trucks, belonging both to the separate 
railway companies and to private traders, should be pooled 
and run to their fullest economic use. 

3. That in fixing shipping freights for vessels under their 
control the Government should have regard to normal 
rates rather than to the excessive rates inflicted by private 
shipowners. We also reiterate our demand for public 
control of general merchant shipping. 

4. That the Government commandeer coal supplies 
and distribute to household consumers through municipal 
or co-operative agencies. 

5. That district conferences on this and kindred subjects 
be organised in various industrial centres. 

In these two Memoranda the Prices Campaign of 
the Workers' National Committee took shape, and it 
was arranged that a series of District Conferences 
should be held on February 13, on the same lines as 
the November conferences on Military and Naval 
Pensions, in the chief industrial centres. 

Two days before the date fixed for these Conferences 
an important debate on prices took place in the House 
of Commons. The Labour Party had tabled a motion 
in the following terms : 

That, in the opinion of this House, the present rise in 



the prices of food, coal, and other necessities of life is not 
justified by any economic consequence of the war, but is 
largely caused by the holding-up of stocks and by the in- 
adequate provision of transport facilities. This House is 
therefore further of opinion that the Government should 
prevent this unjustifiable increase by employing the shipping 
and railway facilities necessary to put the required supplies 
on the market, by fixing maximum prices, and by acquiring 
control of commodities that are or may be subject to artificial 

This motion was, however, set aside by the Govern- 
ment, and preference was given to a non-committal 
motion tabled by a Mr. Ferens, a Liberal Member. 
The Labour motion was therefore moved only as an 
amendment. The debate occupied two days, February 
ii and February 17, and between these two days the 
District Conferences occurred. 

The debate on February n must rank among the 
principal causes of Labour unrest. Mr. Asquith chose 
this occasion for making his famous " Wait till June " 
speech. He asserted that things were not so bad as 
they had been after the Franco-Prussian War, or as 
" the most sober-minded and best-informed judgments 
in the country would have apprehended." Apart 
from a slight concession in the matter of pooling railway 
trucks, he pooh-poohed in succession each suggested 
remedy, and ended by suggesting that conditions 
might improve if the nation would quietly " wait till 
June." Mr. Bonar Law, being in opposition, made a 
slightly more sympathetic speech. 

The Prime Minister's speech acted as an irritant. 
When the District Conferences met two days later, 
there were clear signs of. a changing spirit among the 
workers. Conferences in London, Liverpool, Birming- 
ham, Bradford, Cardiff, Leicester, and Portsmouth 


passed a resolution endorsing the demands made by 
the Workers' National Committee. The preamble was 
in these terms : 

That this conference expresses its deep indignation and 
disappointment at the refusal of the Government to take 
effective measures to deal with the alarming rises in the 
cost of food and fuel. It appeals to the House of Commons 
to force the Government to take immediate steps to relieve 
the unsupportable burden which the cost of the necessaries 
of life is imposing upon the working classes, and to demand 
that the following definite proposals be substituted for the 
policy of inaction put forward by the Prime Minister. 

The terms of this resolution were not stringent 
enough to please the great London Conference, at 
which the following amendment was carried : 

That we express our approval of the splendid stand made 
by Mr. J. R. Clynes, M.P., in the House of Commons on 
Thursday during the debate on food prices. Further, we 
express the hope that the Labour Party, in view of the 
Prime Minister's speech, will force the issue in support of 
their own resolution to a division unless a more satisfactory 
statement be secured from the Government. 

The importance of this amendment lay in the fact 
that the Labour Party had announced that it would 
not press its amendment to a division. The tone of 
the other Conferences was hardly less militant, and 
in Manchester a resolution urging a complete cessation 
of work in default of drastic action by the Government 
was carried. 

When the debate was resumed on February 17 a 
new Labour amendment was moved, advocating the 
fixing of maximum prices and Government control of 
commodities likely to be subject to artificial costs. 


The debate, in the course of which Mr. Runciman made 
another " cold water " speech, while Sir Harry Verney 
at last conceded, on behalf of the Government, an 
enquiry into coal prices, was memorable for a scathing 
attack on the Prime Minister by Mr. Philip Snowden. 
The Labour attempt to secure a division on the amend- 
ment was defeated by the Speaker, who refused to put 
the question. There seems, however, to have been 
no adequate protest against this from the Labour 

The Workers' National Committee met the next 
day and resolved, in view of the unsatisfactory attitude 
of the Government, to call a National Conference on 
March 12. At a subsequent meeting it was decided 
that this Conference should be asked to endorse the 
Committee's proposals with regard to the prices of 
food and coal. 

When the Conference actually met, it proved once 
again to be more militant than had been expected. 
The resolutions endorsing the proposals of the National 
Committee were carried, and the following significant 
addition was passed, in face of the opposition of several 
Labour members, though only by a majority of one 
vote : 

That should the Government decline to cany out what 
is demanded by this Conference the Conference calls upon 
the Labour Party in the House to take all and every measure 
possible by drastic political action, by dividing the House 
or by any other steps to force the Government to take 
action in the manner indicated. 

" I hope," said the Chairman, Mr. Arthur Henderson, 
after the vote had been taken, " that after that vote 
you will allow the Labour Party some discretion." 
As nothing has been done by the Government, and the 


Labour Party is now represented in a Coalition Ministry, 
it seems to have taken all the discretion it needed. 

With this climax the Labour campaign against high 
prices virtually came to an end, at least for the time. 
It failed to move the Government to take any drastic 
action, and it is at least plausible to attribute its 
failure to the fact that there was no economic power 
behind it. Though there were already abundant signs 
of anger, there was no sign of any widespread break- 
down of the industrial truce. The Government still 
felt safe in flouting the workers, and its feeling of 
security was justified by results. 

One small concession Labour did gain. A Committee 
of six was appointed by the Government to enquire 
into the causes of the rise in price of household coal, 
and on this Committee were Professor W. J. Ashley, 
Mr. Will Crooks, and Mr. J. J. Dent. Its Report, 
issued at the beginning of April, bore out the conten- 
tions of the Workers' National Committee. It pointed 
out that prices had risen steadily from September 25, 
and that, in the case of good quality coal, there had 
been a rise of gs. a ton by February 17, as against 2s. 
in the winters of 1912-13 and 1913-14. Moreover, 
the inferior qualities had risen far more, and large 
quantities of poor coal, which could usually find no 
market, were being sold at highly profitable rates. 
The rise in price, the Committee held, was first occa- 
sioned by a temporary scarcity in November, but had 
not passed with the resumption of more nearly normal 
conditions of production and transport. It was shown 
that while prices were not fixed by " definitely con- 
stituted " rings, they were in effect settled for the 
whole industry by a few leading firms, and that, as 
owners and merchants had a common interest in high 


prices, these had been maintained at an unduly high 
level. The recommendations of the Committee must 
be set out in full : 

The Committee direct attention to the fact that certain 
owners have made a practice of reducing their deliveries 
under contract, on the ground of reduction of output. The 
Committee have grave doubts as to the legality of this 
practice, and cannot but regard it as highly questionable 
when it enables the coalowner to sell a larger quantity of 
" free coal " at greatly enhanced prices. 

The Committee regard the outlook for next winter as 
serious and requiring immediate consideration. They con- 
sider that the question can only be dealt with by measures 
affecting the coal industry as a whole (including gas and 
industrial coal as well as household coal) ; and they recom- 
mend : 

(a) The temporary restriction of exports to neutral 
countries ; 

(b) Consultation with the London County Council and 
other public bodies concerned, with a view to considering 
whether those bodies should not, during the coming summer, 
acquire and store in or near London stocks of household 
coal to be sold to traders supplying small consumers during 
next winter ; 

(c) A further reduction of freights on the interned 
steamers now being used to convey coals, especially gas 
coals, from the North ; 

(d) Use for coal transport of suitable enemy ships con- 
demned by prize courts ; 

(e) " If prices do not shortly return to a reasonable level, 
the Government should consider a scheme for assuming 
control of the output of collieries during the continuance of 
the war." 

It is now some months since this drastic report was 
published, all too late for the winter of 1914-15. It 
is to be hoped, though the Government has given no 
sign as yet, that its recommendations will be put in 


force soon, with a view to the possible conditions next 
winter. Early action is essential if the next winter is 
not to be merely a repetition of the last ; for contracts 
governing next winter's prices are already being 
entered into all over the country. Unless something 
is done on the lines laid down in this report, it must 
be said that the whole Labour agitation against high 
prices has been utterly without effect. 

Throughout the foregoing section we have been 
speaking primarily of prices ; but through these has 
been the sinister hint that inflated prices are the 
correlative of no less inflated profits. In the agitation 
against the high price of wheat, Labour came face to 
face with the monopolistic power of the shipowners : 
in the coal Prices Campaign it found itself confronted 
by an unholy alliance of profiteers coalowners, coal 
merchants, and, once again, shipowners. The distrust 
created by these experiences of business as usual had 
a great effect on the temper of the workers. Up to 
that point they had been content to sacrifice much in 
what they were told was the national cause ; but 
when once they began to believe that they were being 
" done," they began to examine the situation more 
carefully, and in a less acquiescent spirit. The begin- 
ning of widespread Labour unrest dated from the 
failure of the Prices Campaign, and originated in the 
workers' new-born sense of being cheated. 

The lesson which the revelations brought about 
by the Prices Campaign served to bring home to the 
workers was all through the winter being learnt from 
other sources also. In the last chapter something 
was said about the work of the Government Contracts 
Sub-Committee of the Workers' National Committee. 
We saw how the Committee continually pressed for a 


full enquiry into the conditions under which Govern- 
ment contracts were being given and executed, and 
how it was able to prove in many cases, especially 
in hut-building, not merely that the workers were 
being sweated, but also that shamefully inflated profits 
were being made. In hut-building, in army catering, 
in clothing, in transport services of all kinds, and in 
the getting and distribution of coal, it soon became 
apparent that business was very much as usual, and 
that undue profits were being extracted as a result of 
the war. The very strong suspicion that the same 
thing was happening in the engineering and ship- 
building industry had a great deal to do with the 
outbreak of Labour troubles on the Clyde. 

Impossible to prove in detail till long after the 
event, the charge of undue profiteering has gained 
considerable support from the balance sheets and 
annual meetings of the great companies. In all 
industries ministering to the needs of the army and 
navy, the capitalists seem to be making a good thing 
out of the war. What wonder if the workers, com- 
manded to make sacrifices in the name of patriotism 
by employers who are themselves making money 
hand over fist, refuse to acquiesce any longer in the 
absurd conditions created by the industrial truce. 
When the Prices Campaign had failed, Labour demanded 
not merely higher wages to meet the increased cost of 
living, but also the limitation of capitalist profits 
arising out of the war. 

Thus Labour passes from the second phase, the war 
against high prices, to the third phase of Labour 
unrest. It would, however, be unfair to dismiss the 
Prices Campaign without some reference to the im- 
portant practical work accomplished by the Co- 


operative movement. In the panic of the first week 
in August the Co-operative Stores did very useful 
work in refusing to raise their prices unduly or to be 
infected by the momentary panic which surrounded 
them. Indeed, throughout the war many of the 
Stores and the two Wholesale Societies have tried to 
keep prices as low as possible, though a few Stores 
have resolutely refused to sacrifice high dividends in 
favour of more reasonable prices. Especially note- 
worthy was the action of some of the Stores in relation 
to the coal supply. Certain Stores, especially in the 
London district, refused to comply with the prices 
fixed on the Coal Exchange, and continued to sell at 
273. 6d. and 283. when the outside price was 303. 
for the same class of coal. The influence of the Stores 
in steadying prices has been very useful, and might 
be far more useful were there a greater element of 
central control to guide it. 



THE first result of the war was, as we have seen, an 
almost complete cessation of industrial unrest. The 
number of workers on strike fell from nearly 100,000 
in July and 50,000 early in August l to 13,000 in 
September, and, after a slight rise, to 3000 in December, 
when there was no dispute of importance in progress. 
Moreover, these figures give an entirely inadequate 
idea of the real position. The only actual dispute 
of any magnitude that was in progress during July 
was the London Building Lock-out, then dragging to 
its close. But if there were singularly few disputes 
actually in being, there was the threat of very severe 
trouble. It is the suspension of all the threatened 
forward movements, far more than the closure of 
actual disputes, that is significant of the change of 

I have now to show the circumstances that led, in 
the New Year, to the partial breakdown of this in- 
dustrial truce, the terms of which can be most con- 
veniently summed up by a reference to the emergency 
agreement made between the railway companies and 

1 Practically all the disputes in progress in August were survivals 
from the pre-war period. New disputes only involved 2000 workers. 



the National Union of Railwaymen and the Associated 
Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen. The 
railwaymen, it will be remembered, were negotiating 
to secure a better conciliation scheme and advances 
in wages, together with the other demands embodied 
in their National Programme. At the outbreak of 
war they abandoned their forward movement, and 
entered into the following agreement : 

At a conference between the Railways' General 
Managers' Committee and representatives of the National 
Union of Railwaymen and the Associated Society of 
Locomotive Engineers and Firemen, on October i, an 
agreement was arrived at with regard to the Conciliation 
Board Scheme. It was resolved that, notwithstanding 
the notice of determination which expires on November 
30, 1914, the scheme of conciliation settled at the Board 
of Trade Conference on December u, 1911, should remain 
in force, and that the men's side of the Boards on each 
of the several railways as at present constituted should 
continue to act, provided that either of the parties could 
give six weeks' notice to determine the agreement, and 
thereupon the parties should agree as to the arrangements 
to be adopted for the future. 

It was further agreed that all existing contracts and 
conditions of service should remain in operation, and that 
no new agreements should be made by the companies 
either with deputations or Conciliation Boards during this 
suspensory period. 

The last clause of this agreement explicitly recog- 
nised that nominal wages should remain the same 
during the suspensory period. Power was reserved 
to terminate the agreement ; but clearly the intention 
was the preservation of existing wage-rates during 
the war. Possible increases in the cost of living, 
though they already threatened, were not taken into 



Three causes combined to create a partial change 
of attitude by the New Year. The first, but perhaps 
the least important, was the Government's policy in 
its dealings with Trade Unionism ; the second was the 
rise in the cost of living ; the third, probably the 
greatest in its psychological effect, was the growing 
suspicion that the capitalists were making a good 
thing out of the war. With these causes I have dealt 
in the foregoing chapters : it now remains to estimate 
the extent to which the truce broke down, and to give 
an account of the later events in Trade Union annals 
during the war. 

It is simplest to begin with a table showing the 
actual number and extent of trade disputes during 
the war period : 


Workers involved in New 



involved in 
all Disputes. 



June * . 





July 1 . 














I3. 25 


























March . 





April . 










1 The figures for June and July 1914 are given to show the fall 
in the number of disputes which followed the declaration of war. 

It will be noticed that the revival of stoppages 
begins in February, which, it should be remembered, 


was also the first month of the war during which there 
was any considerable increase in wages. 1 

Even after the revival there were singularly few 
stoppages of work, the total number of workers affected 
in either February or March being only a little over 
30,000, as against 98,000 last July and 50,000 last 
August. Moreover, most of the stoppages were of 
very short duration, as may be seen from the following 
list, which includes every stoppage of any importance 
during the war period. 


Duration in 

Aug. 1,200 Miners, Bishop Auckland (ab- 
normal places) . . -4 
Sept. 750 Shipyard workers, Leith (altera- 
tion in walking-time allowance) 5 
,, 600 Leather workers, Birmingham 

(wages) .... i 
Oct. 260 Builders' labourers, Cork (wages) . 34 
Nov. i,375 Miners, Ruabon (Minimum Wage 

Act) .... 4 

1,000 Seamen, Liverpool (wages) . 10 

Dec. None 

Jan. 500 Moulders, etc., Birmingham (wages) 5 
266 Boot operatives, Rushden (refusal 

to work with non-unionists) . 3 
Feb. 700 Navvies, etc., Edinburgh (wages) 15 
,, 4,000 Carpenters and Labourers, Salis- 
bury Plain (against deductions 
for bad time-keeping) 2 . .... 

, 8,350 Engineers, etc., Clyde (wages) . 14 
4,000 Jute workers, Dundee (wages) . 6 
5,000 Dockers, London (demand for en- 
gagement outside dock gates) . 6 

1 See table on p. 120. 
Strike soon broken. No actual settlement. 


Duration in 

Mar. 2,136 Miners, Merthyr Tydvil (against 

employment of non-unionists) . 2 

464 Engineers, etc., Sandbach (wages- 

recognition) . . ? 

2,000 Dockers, Birkenhead (against new 

agreement . 4 week-end stoppages 

,, 1,500 Stevedores, London (wages) . 5 

April. 850 Miners, Pontardawe (against em- 
ployment of non-unionists) . 7 

600 Moulders, Paisley (wages) . . i 

570 Malleable iron casters, etc., Walsall 

(wages) . . . .18 

May. 1,500 Builders' labourers, Woolwich 

(wages) .... 3 

639 Building workers, Northampton 

(wages) . . . .24 

3,000 Miners, Dudley (dispute about war 

bonus) . . . .3 

5,000 Miners, Cannock and Pelsall (dis- 
pute about war bonus) . . 3 

700 Motor-cycle makers, Bristol (wages) 8 

1,047 Engineers, Leicester (against cheap 

labour) . . . . ? * 

10,000 Hosiery workers, Leicester (wages) 2 

6,900 Tramway workers, London (wages, 

etc.) .... . 19 

* Soon settled. 

It can be seen at once from this table how insignifi- 
cant both in number and in magnitude have been 
the strikes during the war. It would, however, be a 
profound mistake to interpret this as meaning that 
there has been no Labour unrest. Though the number 
of actual stoppages is so small, there have been, 
during 1915, many disputes which have been settled 
without stoppages, many claims for war bonuses or 
advances in wages, many cases in which friction has 
arisen over the employment of unskilled and female 
Labour. If the Clyde strike has been the only stoppage 


of any magnitude, there have been several occasions 
when much larger stoppages have only been averted 
by the efforts of the Trade Union officials and the 

During the last five months of 1914 there were 
practically no important advances in wages. Only 
two cases deserve mention : 20,000 engineers in the 
London district secured advances of 7^ per cent on 
piece rates, or 35. a week or f d. an hour on time rates ; 
and 15,000 Birmingham engineers won 5 per cent or 
2s. a week. In January 1915 the advances were still 
confined to the engineering industry : 7500 Liverpool 
engineers secured 7^ per cent or 33. a week, and 6100 
Bolton engineers 2\ per cent or is. a week. In 
February the war bonus movement set in, and advances 
began to be won in other industries. 

At the very outset the pitch was queered by the 
railwaymen. Forced at last by their own rank and 
file to make some demand, the railwaymen, about the 
middle of February, entered into a settlement under 
which the railway companies agreed to pay a war 
bonus of 35. a week to all men earning less than 303., 
and of 2s. a week to all who were earning more than 303. 
There are several points in this agreement which call 
for comment. 

In the first place, the concessions accepted were 
entirely inadequate to meet the rise in the cost of 
living. This was true not only of the 2s. advance 
given to the higher grades, but also of the 35. advance 
which was received by the lower-paid workers. The 
acceptance of so small an advance by the railwaymen 
was used by employers in other industries as an excuse 
for refusing demands that real wages should be brought 
up to the pre-war level. When, for instance, the 


transport workers put in for advances during February 
and March, the employers in certain centres countered 
by offering the same concessions as had been secured 
by the railwaymen. The following paragraph, written 
at the time by Mr. Robert Williams, Secretary of the 
Transport Workers' Federation, forms an excellent 
commentary on the railwaymen's settlement. 

In London the position was certainly not helped by the 
settlement of the Railwaymen's proposals. For us, as 
transport workers, the position has been appreciably 
worsened by this example. In Hull, Bristol, Leith, Cardiff, 
advances have been secured ranging from 45. to 75. per 
week. In London the Employers' Committee countered 
the claim put forward by the Dockers' Union for an increase 
of 2d. per hour by saying that the cost of living had not 
increased more for dock labourers than for railwaymen, 
and the increase was accordingly fixed at 33. per week for 
the permanent men and 6d. per day for casuals. Whatever 
desire men may have, in these circumstances, to face the 
issue is vitiated by the fact that this altogether unsatis- 
factory precedent has been established the 2s. and 35. 
of the Railwaymen. There is not the slightest doubt that 
the Manchester Ship Canal Co. will adhere to their similar 
offer to the Salford Dockers, on the same lines, and there 
is a warrantable presumption that the demands submitted 
in Liverpool for an increase of is. per day will be dealt 
with similarly. 

If a further indication is needed, it may be found 
in the fact that the railwaymen themselves are already 
demanding a further advance. 

Secondly and this raises an important question 
of principle the railwaymen obtained a " war bonus," 
and not a permanent increase in rates of wages. They 
thus set the fashion, and, just as they queered the 
pitch by accepting too little, queered it by accepting 
merely temporary concessions. When once a war 


bonus had been accepted in any great industry, it 
became difficult, if not impossible, for workers in other 
industries to secure permanent advances. 

What, then, is the case against the war bonus ? 
It is, briefly, that it will involve Labour in a struggle 
for the maintenance of standard rates just when Labour 
is weakest in the period immediately succeeding the 
war. In the words of the three " impartial " persons 
who form the Committee on Production, a war bonus 
is denned as " war wages, recognised as due to and 
dependent on the existence of the abnormal conditions 
now prevailing in consequence of the war." What 
are the " abnormal conditions " in question ? Is the 
reference solely to the increased cost of living, or does 
it include the conditions arising from dislocation of 
industry and the return of men from military service 
at the end of the war ? The definition given by the 
Committee on Production clearly leaves the matter 
vague, and it may be confidently predicted that in 
some cases the employers will take advantage of this 
vagueness to cancel bonuses just when organised 
Labour is too weak to resist. 

Sometimes the definition of a war bonus is made 
more explicit. Some advances are to terminate 
automatically six months after the end of the war. 
But what assurance can there be that industry will 
resume its normal condition within six months ? It 
is probable that those who have made agreements on 
this basis will find their bonus removed from them 
just when they need it most. 

In fact, the whole war bonus movement has been 
a mistake. In collective bargaining between employers 
and wage-earners, the cost of living is normally one 
of the factors that are taken into account. The 


importance attaching to it in comparison with other 
factors varies ; but it is almost always present. Why, 
then, should not the usual procedure have been followed 
during the war ? It would then have been open for 
the employers to demand reductions when the cost of 
living fell. As things are, the employers will first 
terminate the war bonus, and then, having reverted 
to the old standard rates, will be free to put in for 
reductions on them also. The decision of that struggle 
will depend on the economic power of the parties ; 
but the war bonus system will cause the workers to 
go into the struggle with a severe handicap against 

The concessions accepted by the railwaymen are 
all the more surprising when the position of the rail- 
ways in war time is taken into account. Railwaymen 
are recognised national servants, and, as such, are 
prevented from enlisting for military service. This 
surely entitles them to a little consideration. More- 
over, the terms under which the Government assumed 
control of the railways have been interpreted officially 
as involving the payment of a part what proportion 
we have not been told of the railwaymen's bonus 
out of the State Exchequer. At the same time, the 
Government has officially stated that it took no part 
in the war bonus negotiations, which were left wholly 
to the railway companies and the men. 

If these facts are borne in mind, it is hardly possible 
to doubt that the railwaymen could have got far 
better terms had they offered a bolder front. But it 
was clear to the companies from the start that the 
men did not really mean business, and accordingly 
they were put off with ridiculously small concessions. 
This would not matter so much if they alone had to 


suffer for their weakness ; but the effect of the settle- 
ment on wages disputes in other industries was im- 
mediate and all to the bad. 

Fortunately, the railwaymen's settlement came 
too late to prevent more advantageous settlements 
for real wage advances, varying from 35. to 75. a week, 
to transport workers in Hull, Liverpool, and Birken- 
head, Glasgow, Bristol, Leith, and other centres. 
Fortunately, too, the next important event in the world 
of Labour showed a greater spirit of militancy. On 
February 16 there began a stoppage which soon spread 
to nearly all the engineering shops on the' Clyde, 
involving some 9000 workers. The strike, which was 
unofficial, came as the climax to a long series of negotia- 
tions. As it is not only the largest, but also by far 
the most significant, stoppage during the war period, 
a fairly full account of it must be given. 1 

The Union primarily concerned in the Clyde dispute 
was the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, though 
several other engineering Unions were also directly 
involved. In the Amalgamated Society of Engineers 
the initiative in wages movements and the final 
acceptance or rejection of the employers' offers rest, 
not with the National Executive, but with the district 
concerned. The Clyde area forms a distinct district, 
which has its own wage agreement with the employers. 
At the same time, the district is not wholly self- 
governing in relation to disputes : it is bound by 
certain " Provisions for Avoiding Disputes," agreed to 
by the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and the 
Employers' Federation, and applying to all districts. 

1 For more detailed accounts, see the Political Quarterly for 
May 1915 (article by J. H. Jones), and the New Statesman for 
March 27. 


In January 1912 the Glasgow engineers entered 
into a three years' agreement, under which a standard 
rate of 8|d. an hour was fixed. This agreement would 
thus in the ordinary course of events have come up 
for revision in January 1915. Before the war, in 
June 1914, the District Committee decided to press 
for an advance of 2d. an hour on the expiry of the 
agreement. Thus the application made by the engineers 
was decided on before the war broke out, and independently 
of the rise in the cost of living due to the war. 

The three years during which the agreement ran 
were years in which other industries, and engineers 
in other districts, secured large advances in wages. 
The Clyde workers, however, adhered to their agree- 
ment, and therefore found themselves, on the outbreak 
of war, in a considerably worse position than their 
fellows in other engineering centres. The position 
was only tolerable because a considerable advance 
in January 1915 was looked upon as certain. During 
the period of the agreement trade had been booming 
on the Clyde, and the employers had netted large 

On December 16 the men sent to the employers 
their application for a rise of 2d. an hour. The em- 
ployers, taking advantage of a technical flaw in the 
drafting of the application, delayed their answer till 
December 30, when they replied with a curt refusal 
of the demand as unreasonable. The reason for this 
manoeuvre was clear. Under the " Provisions for 
Avoiding Disputes," there can be no stoppage of work 
till an application has been considered first by a local 
conference, and subsequently by a central (or national) 
conference of employers and workers. The result of 
the employers' delay was that there was no time for 


the application to reach the Central Conference of 
January 8. This meant the postponement of the 
demand till the next Central Conference on February 
12, and the clear loss of a month's potential advances 
in wages to the workers. 

The District Committee, in response to this man- 
oeuvre, at once ordered its members, failing a satis- 
factory reply, to cease work on January 20. This 
scared the employers into agreeing to a local con- 
ference on January 19. At this meeting, and at an 
adjourned session on January 22, the employers 
offered, first a farthing at once and another farthing 
in three months, and then an immediate advance 
of d. an hour. This was refused, and the ques- 
tion stood adjourned to the Central Conference of 
February 12. 

By this time the men were thoroughly exasperated, 
both by the paltry offer made by the employers and 
by the unreasonable delay. An unofficial meeting 
demanded that no overtime should be worked till a 
Special Central Conference was summoned. The 
District Committee and the National Executive l in 
vain counselled the continuance of overtime : the 
men took matters into their own hands, and overtime 
ceased in the principal shops. 

In these circumstances the Central Conference met 
on February 12. The employers refused to give more 
than fd. an hour increase, and that was to be not a 
permanent increase but a war bonus. The National 
Executive of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, 
however, for reasons which have never been satis- 

1 They seem to have had cause to fear that the employers would 
treat the refusal to work overtime as a stoppage of work, and refuse, 
in accordance with the " Provisions for Avoiding Disputes," to 
negotiate further. 


factorily explained, agreed to recommend this advance 
to their members. They had no power to accept 
it ; they only agreed to submit it to a ballot of 
the Clyde district. The only explanation seems 
to be pure fright : they were afraid of Government 
intervention, and wanted their members to accept 
a settlement which they knew to be wholly unjust 
and inadequate. Their next step was no less un- 
fortunate. They fixed the date for the return of 
ballot papers from the district for March 9, or nearly 
a month ahead, thus postponing the issue once again, 
despite the almost certain expectation that the offer 
would be rejected. 

The immediate result of the Executive's action was 
a strike, no less against the dilatory and pusillanimous 
policy of the Union Executive than against the em- 
ployers. On February 16 the stoppage began, and it 
rapidly extended from shop to shop, till about 8000 
men were out. Moreover, disgusted with official 
leadership, the rebels created a new authority of their 
own. A Shop Stewards' Committee, which had had 
much to do with the cessation of overtime, was enlarged 
and formed into the Central Withdrawal of Labour 
Committee, which assumed control of the movement. 
This was essentially a body emanating directly from 
the rank and file, and dominated by impulses different 
from those which moved the Executive. Round it 
rallied the Industrial Unionist, Syndicalist, and Guild 
Socialist elements, and it clearly had the almost 
united backing, for the struggle that called it 
into being if not for the theory behind it, of the 
body of Clyde engineers. The new Committee 
claimed that, as it alone represented all the men on 
strike i.e. all the Unions the future negotiations 


should be carried on by itself and not by the A.S.E. 

These events forced the Executive to take action. 
The ballot, which was brought forward to February 24, 
resulted in the decisive rejection of the employers' 
terms by 8927 votes to 829. At this point the Govern- 
ment intervened. On February 26 the representatives 
of the employers and of the Unions concerned were 
summoned to meet the Industrial Commissioners, 
and the following letter, signed by the Chief Industrial 
Commissioner, was handed to both parties : 

SIR From enquiries which have been made as to the 
position of the disputes in the engineering trade in the 
Glasgow district, it appears that the parties concerned 
have been unable to arrive at a settlement. In consequence 
of the delay the requirements of the nation are being 
seriously endangered. 

I am instructed by the Government that important 
munitions of war urgently required by the navy and army 
are being held up by the present cessation of work, and 
that they must call for a resumption of work on Monday 
morning, March ist. 

Immediately following resumption of work arrange- 
ments will be made for the representatives of the parties 
to meet the Committee on Production in Engineering 
and Shipbuilding Establishments for the purpose of the 
matters in dispute being referred for settlement to a Court 
of Arbitration, who shall also have power to fix the date 
from which the settlement shall take effect. I am, yours 
faithfully, G> R ASKWITH, 

Chief Industrial Commissioner. 

This letter at once created a further storm. The 
wording suggested and was clearly meant to suggest 
a command, and it was asked what authority the 
Government had to order men back to work. On this 


point a discreet silence was observed, and indeed the 
letter was clearly worded so that it could be read in 
two ways. The Government was " trying it on," 
and left " a loophole for escape should the men prove 
obdurate." Its " command " had no binding force ; 
it was at the most a threat of future action. 

Whatever its nature, it was quite enough to terrify 
the Executive Committee, which at once repaired to 
the Clyde and called for an immediate resumption, 
using as arguments, first, the Government's threat and 
the dangers of compulsory arbitration, and secondly, 
that rule in the " Provisions for Avoiding Disputes " 
which, it was said, prevented further negotiation till 
after a return to work. The Withdrawal of Labour 
Committee proposed an alternative policy, urging 
the men to resume on Thursday, March 4, three days 
after the expiration of the Government's ultimatum, 
and also recommending the adoption of ca' canny 
until a settlement was reached. In fact, the resump- 
tion began on Wednesday and was complete by the 
week-end. The policy of ca' canny does not seem to 
have been anywhere adopted. 

Work was resumed ; but the discontent remained, 
and even grew more bitter. On March 6 a further 
Central Conference met, but no agreement was reached. 
The question was therefore referred, by request of the 
Government, to the newly established Committee on 
Production. The employers accepted this reference to 
arbitration ; the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, 
in accordance with its rules, took a ballot of its 
Clyde members on the question of accepting the 
Government award as final. On a very small vote, 
this ballot resulted decisively in favour of acceptance, 
despite the opposition of the Withdrawal of Labour 


Committee, which decided to continue permanently 
in existence. It is clear that many of the malcontents 
must have abstained from this vote. 

On March 24, the Government Committee issued 
its award in the following terms : 

We have given full consideration to the arguments 
advanced by the respective representatives and to all the 
circumstances of the case, and our finding is that in settle- 
ment of the application for an advance the wages of the 
workers in the trades represented should be increased as 
follows, viz. : id. per hour or 45. per week (according to 
the custom of payment in the various shops) on time rates, 
and 10 per cent on piece rates, the advances to come into 
operation as from the beginning of the first full pay week 
after February 22, 1915, and to be regarded as war wages 
and recognised as due to and dependent on the existence 
of the abnormal conditions now prevailing in consequence 
of the war. 

Thus, instead of a permanent increase of 2d. an 
hour, which the Clyde engineers had already decided 
to demand before the war, they received only a war 
bonus of id. an hour. That is to say, whereas an 
increase of at least i|d. an hour was due before the 
war to bring the Clyde engineers up to other great 
districts, they have secured no permanent increase, 
but only a war bonus quite inadequate to meet the 
rise in the cost of living since the war. 1 

The award created great discontent, and it is a 
great tribute to the men's forbearance that it was 
accepted at all. It cannot be said even now that the 
trouble is at an end ; for the District Committee is 
considering a further application, independent of the 

1 The cost of living has risen even more in Glasgow than else- 
where, as house-rents have gone up about 10 per cent. This raising 
of rents seems to be peculiar to Glasgow. 


war bonus, for an increase of id. an hour in standard 
rates. There seems every reason for the granting of 
such an increase, and it is probable that, if the war 
lasts long, the men will refuse to wait till it ends. 
Then, they know that they will be weak ; now, with 
good leadership, they might get at least an instalment 
of the advance that is their due. 

All through the Clyde strike matters were made 
much worse by the tone of newspaper comment. Any 
fair statement of the case clearly shows that the men 
had a very real and serious grievance : yet, while the 
Government was congenially engaged in terrorising 
the A.S.E. Executive, the capitalist press of both 
parties was no less congenially employed in flinging 
mud. The Daily Chronicle, in a leading article headed 
" For Shame ! " spoke of the strike as an " indelible 
stain " on the honour of Scotland : other journals 
vied with one another in applying such epithets as 
" traitors." There was hardly any attempt to under- 
stand the case, or to apportion to the employers their 
due share of the guilt. The attitude of the Press 
towards Labour disputes is bad enough in tune of 
peace : during the war it has done untold mischief 
from its own point of view. The comments of the 
newspapers on the Clyde strike and on the London 
tramway strike have taught the workers much about 
the real attitude of the governing class to Labour. 

It was during the Clyde dispute that the Govern- 
ment first began to develop a Labour policy. In view 
of the impending offensive in France and Belgium 
it became pressing to expedite the manufacture of 
munitions of war. Accordingly, on February 4 the 
Government appointed a Committee on Production 
in Engineering and Shipbuilding Establishments " to 


enquire and report forthwith, after consultation with 
the representatives of employers and workmen, as to 
the best steps to be taken to ensure that the productive 
power of the employees in engineering and shipbuilding 
establishments working for Government purposes shall 
be made fully available so as to meet the needs of the 
nation in the present emergency." 

The Committee, which consisted of Sir G. Askwith, 
Sir F. Hopwood, and Sir G. Gibb, lost no time in 
getting to work, and by March 4 had issued four reports, 
covering six different questions. Since that date it 
has issued no general reports, but many awards 
dealing with wages and conditions of labour in various 

Its first report, issued on February 17, dealt with 
irregular time-keeping in the shipyards. Its recom- 
mendations had to do solely with the " broken squad " 
difficulty, which has for many years caused a great 
deal of time to be lost. Riveting work is carried out 
by squads of workmen, and the absence of one of these 
from any cause used to throw the whole squad idle. 
The Committee recommended the Government to 
intimate to both parties " that it is essential that the 
employers and work-people should agree upon and 
establish within ten days an arrangement for dealing 
effectively with the question of broken squads." To 
some extent, this recommendation was carried out. 
The Boilermakers' Society met the employers, and a 
reserve of workers was created, out of which the places 
of absentees were filled. 

The second report, issued on February 20, dealt 
with two questions of great importance. The first 
section, on " Production of Shells and Fuses," recom- 
mended that production should be expedited by the 


relaxation of Trade Union rules ; the second section 
suggested certain provisions for " Avoidance of Stop- 
page of Work " during the war period. These were 
followed on March i by a report on wages in the 
shipbuilding industry. On March 4 the Committee 
issued another very important report on " Demarcation 
of Work " and on the " Utilisation of Semi-skilled or 
Unskilled Labour." To all these reports we shall 
have to return. 

After the issue of the second report, the Government 
expressed its concurrence, and extended the powers 
of the Committee so as to enable it to act as an arbitra- 
tion court when disputes were referred to it by the 
parties. It will be convenient to deal first with its 
action as an arbitration court on wages questions. 
We have already referred to its decision in the case 
of the Clyde dispute. 

The first important wages question referred to the 
Committee was the application of the shipyard workers 
for an advance of 6s. a week on time rates and 15 per 
cent on piece rates. This was a joint application from 
all the skilled trades in the shipyards, the Boilermakers 
and the Shipwrights being the two most important 
Unions concerned. The Shipbuilding Employers' 
Federation offered 2s. or 5 per cent. The Arbitration 
Committee might seem to have reached its award by 
the simple process of splitting the difference ; for it 
conceded 43. or 10 per cent war bonus. 1 Despite the 
fact that this was a bonus and not an advance in 
standard rates, it seems to have been received with 
satisfaction in the shipyards. It was certainly far 

1 It should be noted that the shipyard labourers followed suit 
in obtaining, by negotiation, advances corresponding to those in 
the skilled trades. 


better treatment than was subsequently meted out 
to the Clyde engineers. 

It is at least plausible to look for the explanation 
of this difference rather to the circumstances of the 
two disputes than to abstract justice. The shipyard 
workers and their employers met in conference, and 
failed to agree, on February 23, when the Clyde strike 
was in full swing. The reference to arbitration took 
place on February 24, by agreement between the 
parties. It was then, from the point of view of the 
Government, supremely important to secure a satis- 
factory settlement. The shipyard dispute was of 
national extent, and affected, among other districts, 
the Clyde area. In view of the new spirit manifesting 
itself in the Labour world, it was imperative to satisfy 
the shipyard workers. Is it too much to say that 
these considerations had much to do with the compara- 
tively good terms conceded by the Committee ? If 
the Clyde engineers got little for themselves, they 
certainly helped the shipyard workers to a fairly 
substantial advance. 

By the time the Committee issued its award on 
the Clyde dispute, these considerations were no longer 
paramount. The award was delayed as long as 
possible, and, thanks to the action of the men's own 
Executive, there seemed, for the moment, no further 
risk of trouble. The Committee appears to have 
settled the Clyde dispute in a punitive spirit, by 
conceding as little as it possibly could. 

The subsequent wages awards of the Committee 
only call for passing mention. In March they required 
that the standard rates agreed to by masters and men 
in the boot and shoe trade must be paid by all employers, 
federated or unfederated, for Government work. They 


were also entrusted with the settlement of the claims 
put forward by the Admiralty Dockyard employees, 
which they decided on lines roughly corresponding to 
their award for workers in private shipyards. During 
April they dealt with a much larger number of cases, 
the most important being that of the Manchester 
engineers, to whom they conceded 35. a week or 7^ 
per cent on piece rates. 

A body which has settled so many claims must, it 
would be thought, be acting on some defined, or at 
least some discernible principle. In fact, however, 
no such principle can be discovered. None is embodied 
in the terms of reference of the Committee, or in the 
subsequent order enlarging its powers : none has ever 
been proclaimed by itself. It gets no nearer a defini- 
tion than to state as a rule that the increases which it 
grants are " war wages, recognised as due to, and 
dependent on, the abnormal conditions now prevailing 
in consequence of the war." 

This would lead to the supposition that the Com- 
mittee decides its awards by a reference to the change 
in the cost of living. But such a supposition cannot 
be reconciled with the facts. In hardly any case are 
the rises large enough to meet the increased cost, 
while the Clyde and the shipyard disputes, as we saw, 
were settled on totally different principles. In fact, 
the Committee's action appears to be purely oppor- 
tunist : broadly speaking, it gives or refuses according 
to the economic power of the applicant. 

This is only possible because the Government has 
refused to give any guidance. Throughout, the 
Government has given no indication of possessing any 
policy on the wages question except that of conceding 
as little as it can. This is clear, not only in its action 


with regard to the Committee on Production, but also, 
still more markedly, in its relations to its own employees. 
In March the National Joint Committee of Postal 
and Telegraph Associations petitioned the Postmaster- 
General for a war bonus. For several weeks no reply 
was received, and when the answer came it was in the 
following terms : 

The Government have decided that the rise in the cost 
of living is not by itself a sufficient reason at the present 
time for increasing the wages of their employees. They 
regard this rise as a burden which must be shared in common 
by all classes in the country. 

The rise in the cost of living appears, then, in the 
Government's eyes, to warrant rises in wages to those 
who are employed by private capitalists, at all events 
where the workers are strong enough to make refusal 
difficult ; but it does not warrant rises to the Govern- 
ment's own employees, who are no less hardly hit by 
the war. This doctrine of " a burden to be shared in 
common by all classes in the country " is the merest 
nonsense when it is applied to those whose wages are 
ordinarily such as to leave no margin to meet a rise 
in prices. 1 

Fortunately, in this case the Government was 
compelled to climb down. The postal Associations 
were indignant at the treatment received, and de- 
manded that the question should be referred to 
arbitration. To this the Government finally agreed, 
with the proviso that it would resist the claim before 
the arbitrator. Despite its resistance a war bonus 
has now been secured ; but this is no credit to the 

1 The only more infamous case is the Government's refusal to 
raise the scale of Old Age Pensions to meet the rise in the cost of 


The same argument has recurred again and again 
in the case of local authorities. All over the country 
municipal employees have put hi claims for war bonuses. 
In many cases these have in the end been granted, 
though they have generally been on a very inadequate 
scale ; but there have been not a few instances in 
which the doctrine of equal sacrifices has been given 
as a ground for refusal. The burden of the increases, 
we are told, would fall on the impoverished rate-payer, 
and therefore the worker must be content to forgo 
his bonus. This is to say that the public service ought 
to be the least eligible of all forms of employment. 
But surely the State and local authorities ought to be 
model employers, and should show the way to the 
private capitalist. Instead, throughout the present 
crisis, they have lagged behind, and have made only 
the most niggardly concessions. Advocates of State 
and municipal control of industry would do well to 
ponder on these significant facts. Public authorities 
have not scrupled to use the argument that wages 
come out of public money in order to reject demands 
that have been conceded by the private employer. 

This attitude was seen at its worst in the case of 
the London tram strike in May. The General Purposes 
Committee of the Council refused any war bonus to 
those of its employees who were earning over thirty 
shillings a week. The drivers and conductors on the 
trams then applied to the Highways Committee, their 
direct employer. The reasons given by the Highways 
Committee for refusing an advance were, first, that it 
was paying 80,000 a year hi allowances to dependents 
of employees who had enlisted, and that it could not 
afford more, as the Council had insisted, despite pro- 
tests, that the tramway receipts should bear the whole 


of this burden. That is to say, the tramwaymen 
were to maintain, by accepting low wages, the de- 
pendents of those who enlisted, while the London 
County Council, at their expense, was to reap the 
glory of being a benevolent employer. The London 
County Council first threw an illegitimate charge on 
the tramway receipts, and then made it an excuse for 
keeping down wages. Secondly, it was argued that, 
since the receipts had to bear this charge, an increase 
in wages would have to come either out of the rates 
or from increased fares. In either case the consumer 
would be hit, and a municipality, existing to protect 
the consumer, could not surfer this. The long and 
short of it was that the tramwaymen were to get no 
bonus. Despite this mischievous reasoning, or perhaps 
because of it, the London County Council beat the 

It found opportunity, however, to add to itself one 
further injustice in the course of the dispute. It 
announced that it would take back no men of military 
age who were physically fit. Thus a public body not 
only refused reasonable wage demands, but also adopted 
the most detestable form of economic compulsion to 
drive its employees into the army. 1 It is no glory to 
the London County Council that its threat broke 
down in practice, and that many men of military age 
and fitness seem actually to have been taken back. 
It is a sign of the municipal attitude that blacklegs of 
military age and fitness were actually used to run cars 
during the strike. 

Neither the State nor the local authorities as em- 
ployers come well out of the present crisis. Their 

1 It is said that the War Office expressed disapproval of this 



object throughout has been, like that of the private 
capitalist, to yield as little as possible. No considera- 
tion of justice has weighed with them at all. No 
wonder, then, that the Government's nominees, the 
Committee on Production, have been guided by purely 
opportunist motives. 

These motives were no less apparent when Mr. 
Asquith himself had to deal with the coal crisis that 
arose in April. The Miners' Federation of Great 
Britain decided to demand a war bonus of 20 per cent 
on earnings, and demanded a national conference with 
the coalowners on the question. The owners replied 
that they were ready to confer locally, through the 
ordinary local machinery for wage negotiation, but 
that their national organisation, the Mining Association 
of Great Britain, had no jurisdiction in wages questions. 
They refused to consent to a national meeting on the 
further ground that the circumstances differed so much 
from locality to locality that no national settlement 
was possible. When a deadlock seemed to have been 
reached, a national meeting was finally secured by the 
instrumentality, and under the chairmanship, of the 
Prime Minister, on the undertaking of the Miners' 
Federation that it should not be regarded as a pre- 
cedent. At this conference, the miners refused the 
owners' offer of a 10 per cent advance nationally, to 
be followed by local negotiations for further advances. 
Finally, it was agreed to leave the question in the hands 
of Mr. Asquith, who, after considerable delay, decided 
that the amount of the bonus should be decided locally, 
with a reference to arbitration where the two parties 
failed to agree. Thus the miners, after all their talk, 
accepted for the moment compulsory arbitration, to 
which, as we shall see, they refused to accede at the 


request of Mr. Lloyd George when the famous Treasury 
Conferences were held. 

The results of the miners' applications, while they 
are by no means satisfactory, have not on the whole 
been as bad as might have been expected. Some 
districts where trade is adversely affected by the war 
did very badly : Northumberland and Durham, for 
instance, got only 15 per cent on the standard, or less 
than half of what had been demanded, and even this 
was to be merged in any future increases under the 
sliding scale. On the other hand, Lord Coleridge's 
award gave the workers in the Federated Area, which 
includes Lancashire and Cheshire, Yorkshire, the 
Midlands, and North Wales, an advance of 15 per cent 
on earnings. The Scottish miners also did fairly well 
in getting i8 per cent on their standard, while South 
Wales got 17! per cent, again on its standard. The 
full 20 per cent on earnings, however, was nowhere 

This struggle had, in fact, a deeper significance than 
appeared on the surface. It was really a struggle for 
the recognition and the centralisation of the Miners' 
Federation of Great Britain. The forward spirits in 
the Federation have long desired to make it, instead 
of the local Associations, the unit for collective bargain- 
ing. This desire had much to do with the intensity of 
the demand for a national conference, though the 
ostensible reason, that, as the rise in the cost of living 
was everywhere equal, the bonus also should be equal, 
was a quite reasonable argument in itself. The 
employers on their side fully realised the accession of 
economic power which the centralisation of the Miners' 
Federation would mean, and their opposition to the 
national conference was dictated no less by this fear 


than by a natural desire that, as profits varied from 
locality to locality, the bonus should also vary. The 
result was a compromise. The national conference 
was held, with the proviso that it should not con- 
stitute a precedent : the settlement was sectional, 
and varied in the different districts. 1 

Only one further wages dispute calls for separate 
mention, and of this it is more difficult to speak, as 
no award has yet been made. As we have seen, the 
great industry most severely affected by the outbreak 
of war was the cotton industry, in which any claim for 
increased wages would have been impossible during 
the early months of the war. During this period the 
cotton Unions were chiefly preoccupied with the relief 
of distress ; and hi almost all cases, despite Government 
subsidies, their funds were very seriously depleted. 
During this period emergency agreements for the 
prevention of disputes were entered into by the Card 
and Blowing Room Operatives in November, and by 
the Spinners in December. In March 1915 the 
Weavers, the section which had been most seriously 
hit by the war, applied for a war bonus, but the 
employers refused to grant this on account of bad 
trade, though they expressed sympathy with the 
position of the operatives. 

When the crisis arose in May, it came on the spinning 
side of the industry. The Cardroom Amalgamation 
became convinced that trade had recovered to such 
an extent that excessive profits were being made in 
mills spinning 36 counts and below, 2 not only on 
Government contracts, but also on private work, 

1 For the recent events in the South Wales coalfield, see p. 226, 

s I.e. the coarser counts. 


and that their demand for a bonus was justified. 
The employers refused to entertain this general ap- 
plication, while they professed themselves willing to 
grant a bonus where it could be shown that abnormal 
profits were being made on Government work. This 
assurance did not satisfy the cardroom workers, and 
notices were posted in certain mills. These duly 
expired, and a few strikes began without any nearer 
approach to a settlement. A few unfederated firms 
granted the demand, but the Masters' Federation 
not only stood firm, but also announced that it would 
declare a general lock-out unless the strikers returned 
to work. A general lock-out, it should be observed, 
is the customary weapon of the cotton employers. 
Thereupon the Spinners, who would be at once stopped 
by such a lock-out, declared their intention to regard 
it as a violation of agreement, and to demand a war 
bonus for themselves. This, in turn, the employers 
denounced as a breach of agreement. 

The facts are these. In July 1910 the Spinners 
entered into a five years' wages agreement, which 
accordingly expires in July 1915. They had all along 
intended to apply for advances when this agreement 
ran out naturally enough, since it has prevented 
them from sharing in the big advances gained in other 
industries during the last few years. They therefore 
found themselves in this position. If they allowed 
themselves to be locked out without making a demand, 
they would exhaust their funds and so be unable to 
press their claim in July. They therefore took the 
very natural course of treating the general lock-out 
as a declaration of hostilities, and decided to press 
their claim at once. Notices of the general lock-out 
were duly posted by the employers ; but before these 


actually took effect the Board of Trade intervened, 
and the whole question was referred to the Committee 
on Production with the consent of the two Trade 
Unions and the three employers' associations involved. 
The award has not yet been issued : it will apply both 
to the Cardroom operatives and to the Spinners. If 
the general lock-out had occurred, not only the Spinners, 
but also the Weavers, who would soon have been 
stopped by shortage of yarn, would certainly have 
demanded a war bonus. In view of the reference to 
arbitration they are now asking to have their demand 
dealt with by arbitration at the same time ; and this 
is likely to be done. 

When only wages movements are taken into account, 
it is clear from what has been said that the calm 
promise of the autumn is not being fulfilled this year. 
The Labour unrest is real and growing. But it should 
be borne in mind that in no single case have the workers 
asked for larger increases than the rise in the cost of 
living warrants. In practically every case the advances 
gained have been quite inadequate to meet the rise. 
If actual earnings are taken into account, this de- 
ficiency is made up in certain cases ; but this is only 
where long hours of overtime have been worked, and 
for such work Labour is surely entitled to extra pay- 
ment. Moreover, the advances in wages have borne 
no relation to the need of the recipients : they have 
depended on economic power, and advances in rates 
have gone to the very workers whose earnings have 
risen. Workers hi depressed trades, and especially 
women workers, have had little share in the increases : 
not only have their rates not been advanced ; their 
actual earnings have in many cases gone down. The 
whole position is, indeed, thoroughly unsatisfactory. 


The wages question is, however, only a minor part 
of the great Labour problem to which the war has 
given rise. I turn now to examine the question in 
aspects which are of far greater ultimate importance 
to the cause of Labour. 



ON February 4, 1915, as we have seen, the Government 
appointed a Committee on Production in Engineering 
and Shipbuilding Establishments. It was with the 
formation of this Committee that the deliberate attempt 
to organise the nation for the production of munitions 
of war really began. For the first six months of the 
war, the provision of munitions was left in the hands 
of the War Office and the Admiralty, aided by a few 
technical advisers. Now it was perceived for the first 
time that a crucial question was the organisation of 
Labour. Left to itself, private capitalism was proving 
unequal to the task : the Committee on Production 
was the first attempt to deal with the problem in 
relation to the workers. 

The shortage of skilled labour in the engineering 
industry was already becoming acute in November 
1914. During the first months of the war there had 
been a good deal of unemployment, and no less than 
10,000 skilled men who were soon to be urgently 
needed at home were allowed to enlist without protest. 
Lack of foresight on the part of the Government, if it 
did not create the scarcity, at least doubled its intensity. 
A little more preparedness for the emergency would, 



in this, as in many other cases, have saved much 
trouble later on. No one seems to have anticipated 
the extent of the demands that would have to be made 
on the industry, and, even when this could be clearly 
foreseen, no one seems to have thought of securing at 
once that the necessary resources should be available. 

However that may be, it soon became clear that 
the shortage of skilled men was a fact. The engineering 
employers in December approached the Unions with 
proposals for overcoming the difficulty ; the Unions 
replied with counter-proposals, which the employers 
dismissed as useless. The Unions thereupon declared 
their willingness to meet the employers again in 
conference ; the latter airily replied that they were 
willing to confer, provided the Unions first conceded 
all their demands. To this preposterous proposal 
the Unions answered, reiterating their readiness to 
confer, but refusing to make concessions in advance. 

What, then, were the proposals which the employers 
made ? They can be very briefly described. They 
demanded that the Unions should agree " not to press 
the following questions to an issue, but to confine 
themselves to noting any such by way of protest for 
the purpose of safeguarding their interests " manning 
of machines and of hand operations, the demarcation 
of work between trades, the employment of non-Union 
labour and of female labour, and the whole question 
of the limitation of overtime. That is to say, the 
employers' demands covered the whole field of Trade 
Union working rules, and the proposal was that an 
absolutely free hand should be given to the masters, 
subject only to a right of protest, which could not be 
backed up by action of any sort on the men's side. 

It is true that with these proposals the employers 


coupled certain guarantees which they were prepared 
to give. They promised that the innovations should 
be for the period of the war only, and that they would 
revert to the old conditions at its close. They also 
undertook to pay to all workers the standard rates for 
the jobs on which they might, for the moment, be 
engaged. Why, then, in face of these promises, did 
the Unions remain obdurate ? 

Their reasons are clear. In the first place, the 
guarantee came only from the federated employers. 
There are, however, many engineering employers not 
in the Federation, and it is in the unfederated shops 
that Trade Unionism is, generally speaking, weakest. 
If, then, the unfederated employers refused at the end 
of the war to revert to the old conditions, the Unions 
would have to fight a series of battles just where they 
are weakest, with the knowledge that, if they failed 
to bring the unfederated employers into line, the 
masters in the Federation would find themselves 
undercut by the lower rates paid outside, and would, 
sooner or later, themselves be forced to attempt to 
lower wages or to reimpose the emergency conditions. 
A mere guarantee from the Employers' Federation 
could therefore in no circumstances be enough ; it 
would have to be coupled with a guarantee from the 
Government that the unfederated employers would 
be brought into line. 

Even if this difficulty were surmounted, a still 
graver objection remained. The employers demanded 
an absolutely free hand in setting unskilled and semi- 
skilled workers on the machines which are now the 
monopoly of the skilled men. The effect of this would 
be that, by the end of the war, there would be a 
great surplus of trained workers competing for a very 


restricted number of skilled jobs. The policy of limita- 
tion, on which the rates of the skilled men rest, would 
be no longer possible, and the competition of those 
who returned from the front, and those who found 
their occupation of making war munitions gone, would 
depress the level of skilled wages all over the country 
to an unprecedented extent. Moreover, a fall in the 
rates of skilled men would inevitably be followed by a 
similar fall in the rates of semi-skilled and unskilled 
workers. The engineers were asked, in the name of 
patriotism, to bring upon themselves an aggravated 
depression which would rob them of all the victories 
of the last half-century. 

However anxious both parties might be not to 
hamper the Government, there could be no settlement 
on such lines. It remains to see, first, what were the 
counter-proposals made by the Unions, and, secondly, 
whether the employers could not have made a more 
reasonable demand. Let us begin with the suggestions 
made by the men. 

They proposed that firms engaged on private work 
not connected with the war should be given Govern- 
ment work (in effect, an application to the Government 
to extend its contract list to firms then outside it), 
that those firms which were even then working short 
time should transfer their surplus workers to the 
busier centres ; that a subsistence allowance should 
be paid by the Government to induce such workers to 
migrate ; that skilled men should be drafted from 
other parts of the Empire (the Amalgamated Society 
of Engineers, it may be said, had still seven hundred 
unemployed members in its overseas branches), and 
that the skilled men who had enlisted should, wherever 
they were not needed for skilled work with the Army, 


be recalled to the more pressing work which they had 
left. The five Unions concerned the Engineers, the 
Steam Engine Makers, the Toolmakers, the United 
Machine Workers, and the Scientific Instrument 
Makers contended that, if these proposals were carried 
into effect, the shortage would cease. Though this 
was no doubt an exaggeration, they would certainly 
have gone far towards solving the problem. 

It may be admitted that these suggestions would 
not have completely met the case. This, however, 
was no reason for demanding that the men should 
accept the complete and unconditional surrender 
claimed by the employers, which would have involved 
widespread discontent, and might well have resulted 
in a policy of ca' canny. It is noteworthy that the 
employers' proposals were absolutely sweeping; they 
asked, not for the relaxation of this or that particular 
rule relating to demarcation, manning of machines, or 
the like, but, to all intents and purposes, for the 
complete and general abrogation of the rules as a whole. 
If they had come to the men with a request for the 
modification of some specific rule, there can be little 
doubt that their request would have received sym- 
pathetic consideration. 

It was because they chose to ask for everything 
that the Unions were unwilling to give anything at all. 
They would have been mad to allow the employers, 
under pretext of the national emergency, to make a 
holocaust of all safeguards. 

This was the position when the Committee on 
Production was appointed. Before the issue of its 
first report, the Government committed its first great 
error of tact in dealing with the question, and showed 
its utter inability to appreciate the working-class point 


of view. On February 8 Mr. H. J. Tennant asked the 
Labour Party in the House to secure relaxations of 
Trade Union rules. His speech showed no sign of 
an understanding of the momentous issues involved, 
and contained no hint that the Government was 
willing to do anything to secure the workers against 
the results of relaxing their rules, or to prevent the 
extra profits due to such relaxations from going into 
the pockets of the employers. To the criticisms 
levelled against him by Labour members Mr. Tennant 
did not even deign to reply. His speech was an 
employers' speech, and it was justly resented through- 
out the world of Labour. Only a few weeks before, 
the Government had been overflowing with compli- 
ments to the workers : now there was a sudden change 
of face. Mr. Tennant 's speech was the beginning of 
a series of attacks on Trade Unionism. The whole 
history of the months that follow is a curious medley 
of attacks on the working class coupled with attempts 
to get the Trade Unions to make concessions. It is a 
series of ridiculous errors in tact and wanton mis- 
representations on the one hand, coupled with a half- 
sincere but faint-hearted attempt to give the workers 
at least an appearance of possessing rights and responsi- 
bilities in the conduct of industry. The Labour Party 
very justly resented Mr. Tennant's attack, and pointed 
out that in any case it was for the Unions themselves 
to decide what concessions they were prepared to 
make. Accordingly, the next stage in the struggle 
was the direct approach made to the Unions by the 

While the direct negotiations between the Trade 
Unions and the Employers' Federation were in progress, 
matters came to a head in one of the largest works in 


the country. On February 18 the engineers at the 
Elswick works of Sir W. G. Armstrong, Whitworth 
& Company, tendered notice to cease work unless 
the firm dispensed with the unskilled labour which 
had been introduced on skilled jobs. The Company, 
which was engaged almost entirely on Government 
work, had taken on and set on skilled jobs various 
types of workers from depressed industries copper- 
smiths, lacemakers, cotton operatives, silversmiths, 
and unskilled workers. The introduction of these 
workers constituted a breach of working rules. 

The immediate result of the threat to cease work 
was a conference between the management and 
delegates from each shop in the works. As a result 
of this conference, strike notices were suspended and 
a provisional agreement was reached, pending the 
reference of the whole question to a Central Conference 
between the Unions and the Employers' Federation. 
The provisional settlement was important, as a number 
of the points urged by the workers were conceded. 

It was at once admitted by the firm that, whatever 
labour was taken on, the district rate for the job 
concerned must always be paid. This being granted, 
the men put to the management two further questions, 
the answers to which constituted the substantial gain 
that they made. They asked, first, whether the firm 
would agree that the Unions should be allowed to 
inspect the credentials of the imported workers, and, 
further, to inspect the actual work done by them. 
After prolonged discussion, this concession on the 
employers' part was definitely made. The men's 
representatives then brought forward a further point. 
They demanded that the employers should furnish 
them with a complete return, showing the names of 


all unskilled men taken on, and in addition the name 
of the Trade Union of which they were members. To 
this, too, the firm agreed. The men then asked for 
a guarantee that the services of all such workers would 
be dispensed with at the end of the war, and that 
copies of the list containing their names should be 
sent to every member of the Engineering Employers' 
Federation, with the instruction that they should in 
no case be employed. This guarantee was also given 
by the firm. Last, but not least, the management 
promised that, for the present, no further unskilled 
workers should be set on skilled jobs, and that the 
representatives of the skilled crafts should be first 
consulted in all cases in which doubt could arise. 
This meant that the question of introducing further 
unskilled labour would depend upon the settlement 
to be arrived at nationally by the Engineering Em- 
ployers' Federation and the engineering Unions con- 
cerned, but the precedent created in the case of the 
largest firm had a material influence on the course of 
these negotiations. 

The men, by the threat of industrial action, thus 
secured a small initial victory. 1 The national negotia- 

1 In other cases difficulties have been caused by the employment 
of Belgian refugees. A strike at the Wolsingham Steel Works, 
Durham, in February was due to this cause. Unskilled Belgians 
having been put on to skilled jobs, the men struck. After an inter- 
view between the firm and Sir Ernest Hatch, Chairman of the 
Government Departmental Committee for the Employment of 
Belgian Refugees, the strike was settled to the satisfaction of the 
British workers. A more serious case was that in which Belgians 
were compelled by the local Relief Committee to remain at work 
during the engineering strike at Sandbach. Here, too, Sir Ernest 
Hatch settled the case in favour of the men, and the Belgians were 
not allowed to go on working. Both these instances are typical 
of a number that have arisen in connection with the employment 
of Belgian refugees. Ultimately, most of the available Belgian 
labour has been absorbed without serious friction. The Committee 


tions with the employers, however, did not result in a 
settlement of the question, though the Unions agreed 
to withdraw restrictions on overtime. The wider 
question of the suspension of Trade Union regulations 
became, in fact, for some time the most important 
point at issue in the great three-cornered contest 
between the Trade Unions, the employers, and the 
Government, to which the above events formed the 

Before the Government made any direct approach 
to the Unions, the Committee on Production issued 
the series of important reports to which reference has 
already been made. Of the brief report on lost time 
in shipyards we have already spoken ; of far greater 
interest is the second report, issued on February 20. 

This contains two memoranda, of which the first 
deals with the production of shells and fuses, and the 
second with the avoidance of industrial disputes. It 
was followed on March 4 by a further report dealing 
with demarcation and the relations between skilled 
and unskilled workers. 

The " shells and fuses " report is important as the 
first definition of the official policy with regard to 
Trade Union rules in particular cases. The provision 
of shells was one of the most urgent of the problems 
with which the Committee was appointed to deal ; it 
also seemed one of the simplest, as, in the words of 
the report, " the only consumers of shells are the 
Government," and as shell-making is quite distinct 
from other branches of the metal industry. The 

insists on the payment of standard rates, and so prevents the under- 
cutting of British labour, of which there were at first a good many 
cases. It also refuses to allow Belgian labour to be employed where 
British workers are available, or where there is a labour dispute. 


following passages indicate the lines of the Com- 
mittee's recommendations : 

(1) We are of opinion that the production of shells and 
fuses would be considerably accelerated if there were a 
relaxation of the present practice of the workmen confining 
their earnings, on the basis of the existing piece rates, to 
" time-and-half," or whatever the local standard may be. 
We understand this practice is due to some extent to a 
desire to protect the piece rates ; we agree that the present 
circumstances should not be utilised as a means of lowering 
rates of wages, and we think the rates in question should 
be protected. This can be adequately done, however, 
by other means than restriction of earnings and output. 
As the only consumers of shells are the Government, we 
recommend that firms engaged in the production of shells 
and fuses should give an undertaking to this Committee 
on behalf of the Government to the effect that in fixing 
piecework prices the earnings of men during the period of 
the war should not be considered as a factor in the matter, 
and that no reduction in piece rates will be made, unless 
warranted by a change in the method of manufacture 
e.g. by the introduction of a new type of machine. The 
protection afforded by this guarantee should remove appre- 
hensions on the part of the men that their piece rates might 
be endangered, and we think, therefore, that the Govern- 
ment would be fully justified in calling upon each man 
to increase his production to the fullest possible extent, 
irrespective of his former limits of earnings or shop customs. 

Any difference which may arise on this matter which 
cannot be settled by the parties directly concerned or by 
their representatives should be referred as suggested in 
our recommendation respecting " Avoidance of Stoppage of 

(2) We are satisfied that, in the production of shells 
and fuses, there are numerous operations of a nature that 
can be, and are already in some shops, suitably performed 
by female labour. We therefore recommend that, in order 
to increase the output, there should be an extension of the 



practice of employing female labour on this work, under 
suitable and proper conditions. 

The Committee thus recommended the abolition 
of restrictions on output, coupled with a guarantee 
that increased output should not be used as an argu- 
ment for cutting down piece-rates a guarantee only 
made possible by the fact that the Government is the 
only consumer. It further advised the introduction 
of female labour, " under suitable and proper condi- 
tions " ; but it gave no indication what it would 
consider proper conditions, though it recommended 
that disputes on the matter should be referred to itself 
for settlement. 

This agreement has been accepted by the Amalga- 
mated Society of Engineers, though no less than twelve 
branches, in London alone, are known to have voted 
against it. 

The report on demarcation is no less noteworthy. 
It is common knowledge that, in normal times, ques- 
tions of the demarcation of work between trades form 
one of the most fruitful causes of internal dissension 
in the Trade Union world, as well as a frequent source 
of dispute with the employers. Many Trade Unionists 
have long been no less impatient with these quarrels 
than the employers themselves, and there have been 
repeated attempts in peace time to set up machinery 
to deal with them. But nothing is more certain than 
the necessity for the existence of a clear delimitation 
of trades, while the present structure of Trade Unionism 
persists. The standard rates in the skilled trades 
depend largely on limitation of the supply of labour, 
and this is broken down no less if men of another craft 
become potential competitors than if the labourer is 
allowed to take the work of a skilled man. Disputes 


between skilled tradesmen and labourers have never 
been recognised by the Unions as belonging to the 
category of demarcation disputes. A separate report 
dealing with them was therefore added. 

The Committee began by pointing out the delay 
caused by the rules governing the demarcation of 
trades and the importance of accelerating the pro- 
duction of munitions. The following are its practical 
suggestions : 

We understand that in the Government Establishments 
the demarcation restrictions are less numerous than in 
private shipyards and workshops ; where they exist in 
Government Establishments we think they should at once 
be suspended. 

In private establishments we are of opinion that on 
work required for Government purposes or affecting the 
same the demarcation restrictions which at present exist 
in regard to the work of the different skilled trades in the 
engineering and shipbuilding industries should be suspended 
during the continuance of the war. The suspension should 
be accompanied by the following safeguards : 

(1) That the men usually employed on the work re- 
quired are not available. 

(2) That if no suitable labour is available locally, but 
men can be found from a distance who are unemployed or 
who can be spared from their existing employment, and 
the work is of sufficient magnitude to warrant the transfer 
of men from a distance, opportunity of employment shall 
be given to such men providing that the work in hand is 
not delayed by waiting for them. 

(3) That the relaxation of existing demarcation restric- 
tions shall not affect adversely the rates customarily paid 
for the job. In cases where the men who ordinarily do 
the work are adversely affected by relaxation, the necessary 
readjustments should be mutually arranged. 

(4) That a record of the nature of the departures from 
the status quo shall be kept. 


(5) That any difficulties which cannot be settled between 
the parties or their representatives shall be referred to the 
Board of Trade within seven days for speedy settlement. 
Pending such reference there shall be no stoppage of work. 

(6) That the form of guarantee to workpeople which we 
have suggested in our Second Interim Report, of February 
2oth, shall be adopted. 1 

Utilisation of Semi-Skilled or Unskilled Labour 

Where an employer is unable to meet the requirements 
of the Government because of his inability to secure the 
necessary labour customarily employed on the work, we 
think it imperative that during the war it should be open 
to him to make greater use of unskilled or semi-skilled 
labour, with proper safeguards and adjustments to protect 
the interests of the workpeople and their trade unions. We 
have suggested, in our Second Interim Report, of February 
2oth, a form of guarantee which we consider satisfactory 
for the purpose of safeguarding the position of the trade 
unions and of the workpeople concerned. 

If it is claimed by the workpeople or their representatives 
that the arrangements in any specific case are not necessary 
or are unduly prejudicial to their interests, the matter 
should at once be discussed between the firm and the men's 
representatives. If the question cannot be amicably 
adjusted, it should be referred in accordance with our 
recommendation as to " avoidance of stoppage of work." 

I have left till last the more important section of 
the Committee's second report, issued on February 20. 
This deals with the " Avoidance of Stoppages on Work 
for Government Purposes." It begins with a preamble 
in the following terms : 

Whatever may be the rights of the parties at normal 
times, and whatever may be the methods considered 
necessary for the maintenance and enforcement of those 

1 See later, p. 181. 


rights, we think there can be no justification whatever for 
a resort to strikes or lock-outs under present conditions, 
when the resulting cessation of work would prevent the 
production of ships, guns, equipment, stores, or other 
commodities required by the Government for the purposes 
of the war. 

Its recommendation is as follows : 

Avoidance of Stoppages on Work for Government Purposes 

With a view to preventing loss of production caused by 
disputes between employers and workpeople, no stoppage 
of work by strike or lock-out should take place on work 
for Government purposes. In the event of differences 
arising which fail to be settled by the parties directly con- 
cerned, or by their representatives, or under any existing 
agreements, the matter shall be referred to an impartial 
tribunal nominated by His Majesty's Government for 
immediate investigation and report to the Government 
with a view to a settlement. 

The Committee further recommended that, " in 
order to safeguard the position of the Unions and the 
workpeople concerned, each contracting firm should 
give an undertaking, to be held on behalf of the Unions, 
in the following terms " : 

To His Majesty's Government. 

We hereby undertake that any departure during the war 
from the practice ruling in our workshops and shipyards 
prior to the war shall only be for the period of the war. 

No change in practice made during the war shall be 
allowed to prejudice the position of the workpeople in our 
employment or of their Trade Unions in regard to the re- 
sumption and maintenance after the war of any rules or 
customs existing prior to the war. 

In any readjustment of staff which may have to be 
effected after the war, priority of employment will be given 
to workmen in our employment at the beginning of the war 


who are serving with the colours or who are now in our 

Name of Firm - 


Disputes arising out of this guarantee, it was urged, 
should be referred to arbitration under the conditions 
suggested in the case of threatened stoppages of work. 

These recommendations, which had of course no 
force until they were confirmed by the Trade Unions 
concerned, led directly to the now famous Treasury 
Conference of March 17, which met the day after the 
passing of the Defence of the Realm Act that gave the 
Government power to commandeer any factory capable 
of turning out munitions of war. 

Representatives of the Trades Union Congress, 
the General Federation of Trade Unions, and the chief 
Unions connected with the production of commodities 
needed for the war were invited to confer with the 
Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the 
Board of Trade " to consider the general position in 
reference to the urgent need of the country in regard 
to the large, and a larger, increase in the output of 
munitions of war, and the steps which the Government 
propose to take to organise the industries of the country 
with a view to achieving that end." It is worth while 
to give a list of the organisations represented. 1 

A. General. 

The Parliamentary Committee of the Trade Union 

Congress. 2 
The General Federation of Trade Unions. 2 

1 The Miners' Federation of Great Britain was represented on 
the first day, but withdrew as it was unwilling to accept compulsory 
arbitration. See pp. 163 and 216 ff. 

* Federations consisting wholly or partly of Unions which were 
separately represented. 


B. Engineering. 

Amalgamated Society of Engineers. 
Steam Engine Makers. 
United Machine Workers. 
Amalgamated Toolmakers. 
United Patternmakers. 
Friendly Society of Ironfounders. 
Associated Ironmoulders of Scotland. 
Associated Blacksmiths and Ironworkers. 
Electrical Trades Union. 

Federation of Engineering and Shipbuilding 
Trades. 1 

C. Shipbuilding. 

United Boilermakers. 

Shipwrights' Association. 

Sheet Iron Workers and Light Platers. 

Shipbuilding Trades Agreement Committee. 1 

D. Iron and Steel Trades. 

British Steel Smelters. 

Associated Iron and Steel Workers. 

E. Other Metal Trades. 

National Amalgamated Sheet Metal Workers. 
General Union of Braziers and Sheet Metal Workers. 
Operative Plumbers. 

F. Woodworkers. 

Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners. 

General Union of Carpenters and Joiners. 

House and Ship Painters and Decorators. 

Scottish Painters. 

Furnishing Trades Association. 

Woodcutting Machinists. 

Amalgamated Cabinet Makers. 

G. Labourers. 

Gas and General Workers. 

Workers' Union. 

National Amalgamated Union of Labour. 

1 Federations consisting wholly or partly of Unions which were 
separately represented. 


H. Transport. 

National Union of Railwaymen. 

National Transport Workers' Federation. 
I. Woollen. 

General Union of Textile Workers. 

J. Boot and Shoe. 

Boot and Shoe Operatives. 

Thus the Unions from which those present were 
drawn, while they by no means included all the Unions 
concerned in the making of munitions, formed a very 
representative gathering, and covered a very large 
membership. How far the attitude of the leaders 
represented that of the rank and file is another, and a 
far more difficult, question. 

To this great gathering Mr. Lloyd George made a 
speech in which he set forth his proposals. He began 
by insisting on the need for the national organisation 
of industry, and by quoting the example of France, 
in which he said, under stress of invasion, it had been 
accomplished by voluntary effort. He then referred 
to the Government's power to assume control of factories 
under the Defence of the Realm Acts ; but, he said, 
" although we have the power, we cannot exercise it 
unless we have the complete co-operation of employers 
and workmen." He then passed to his suggestions. 
" Above all," he said, " we propose to impose a limita- 
tion of profits, because we see that it is very difficult for 
us to appeal to Labour to relax restrictions and to put 
out the whole of its strength, unless some condition of 
this kind is imposed." He then went on to say that he 
did not propose to discuss then and there the methods of 
limiting profits, as this would be a matter for subsequent 
discussion with the employers. He appealed to the 
workers to accept arbitration in Labour disputes and 


to relax, under adequate safeguards, their Trade Union 
rules. In this part of his speech he followed the lines 
laid down by the Committee on Production. Lastly, 
he referred to the drink question, of which so much 
was to be heard later. 

After Mr. Lloyd George had spoken, a Sub-Committee 
of seven was appointed to draw up proposals for sub- 
mission to the Conference. This was done on the 
following day, in consultation with Mr. Lloyd George 
and Mr. Runciman. The Sub-Committee was as 
follows : 

Arthur Henderson (Ironfounders). 

C. W. Bowerman (Parliamentary Committee). 

John Hill (Boilermakers). 

W. Mosses (Patternmakers). 

A. Wilkie (Shipwrights). 

Frank Smith (Cabinetmakers). 

J. T. Brownlie (Engineers). 

On the following day an agreement was arrived at, 
and endorsed by the representatives of all the Unions 
with the very important exception of the Amalgamated 
Society of Engineers, whose representatives were 
dissatisfied with the safeguards offered. This accept- 
ance had, of course, as Mr. Henderson said in an 
interview, no binding force until it had been submitted 
to the Unions concerned. The agreement was in the 
following terms : 

The Workmen's Representatives at the Conference will 
recommend to their members the following proposals with 
a view to accelerating the output of munitions and equip- 
ments of war : 

(i) During the war period there shall in no case be any 
stoppage of work upon munitions and equipments of war 
or other work required for a satisfactory completion of the 


All differences on wages or conditions of employment 
arising out of the war shall be dealt with without stoppage 
in accordance with paragraph (2). 

Questions not arising out of the war should not be made 
the cause of stoppage during the war period. 

(2) Subject to any existing agreements or methods now 
prevailing for the settlement of disputes, differences of a 
purely individual or local character shall unless mutually 
arranged be the subject of a deputation to the firm repre- 
senting the workmen concerned, and differences of a general 
character affecting wages and conditions of employment 
arising out of the war shall be the subject of Conferences 
between the parties. 

In all cases of failure to reach a settlement of disputes 
by the parties directly concerned, or their representatives, 
or under existing agreements, the matter in dispute shall 
be dealt with under any one of the three following alter- 
natives as may be mutually agreed, or, in default of agree- 
ment, settled by the Board of Trade. 

(a) The Committee on Production. 

(6) A single arbitrator agreed upon by the parties or 
appointed by the Board of Trade. 

(c) A court of arbitration upon which Labour is repre- 
sented equally with the employers. 

(3) An Advisory Committee representative of the 
organised workers engaged in production for Government 
requirements shall be appointed by the Government for 
the purpose of facilitating the carrying out of these recom- 
mendations and for consultation by the Government or 
by the workmen concerned. 

(4) Provided that the conditions set out in paragraph 
(5) are accepted by the Government as applicable to all 
contracts for the execution of war munitions and equip- 
ments the workmen's representatives at the Conference 
are of opinion that during the war period the relaxation 
of the present trade practices is imperative, and that each 
Union be recommended to take into favourable considera- 
tion such changes in working conditions or trade customs 


as may be necessary with a view to accelerating the output 
of war munitions or equipments. 

(5) The recommendations contained in paragraph (4) 
are conditional on Government requiring all contractors 
and sub-contractors engaged on munitions and equipments 
of war or other work required for the satisfactory com- 
pletion of the war to give an undertaking to the following 
effect : 

Any departure during the war from the practice ruling 
in our workshops, shipyards, and other industries prior to 
the war, shall only be for the period of the war. 

No change in practice made during the war shall be 
allowed to prejudice the position of the workpeople in our 
employment, or of their Trade Unions in regard to the 
resumption and maintenance after the war of any rules or 
customs existing prior to the war. 

In any readjustment of staff which may have to be 
effected after the war, priority of employment will be given 
to workmen in our employment at the beginning of the 
war who are serving with the colours or who are now in 
our employment. 

Where the custom of a shop is changed during the war 
by the introduction of semi-skilled men to perform work 
hitherto performed by a class of workmen of higher skill, 
the rates paid shall be the usual rates of the district for that 
class of work. 

The relaxation of existing demarcation restrictions or 
admission of semi-skilled or female labour shall not affect 
adversely the rates customarily paid for the job. In cases 
where men who ordinarily do the work are adversely 
affected thereby, the necessary readjustments shall be made 
so that they can maintain their previous earnings. 

A record of the nature of the departure from the con- 
ditions prevailing before the date of this undertaking shall 
be kept and shall be open for inspection by the authorised 
representative of the Government. 

Due notice shall be given to the workmen concerned, 
wherever practicable, of any changes of working conditions 
which it is desired to introduce as the result of this arrange- 


ment, and opportunity of local consultation with men or 
their representatives shall be given if desired. 

All differences with our workmen engaged on Govern- 
ment work arising out of changes so introduced, or with 
regard to wages or conditions of employment arising out 
of the war, shall be settled without stoppage of work in 
accordance with the procedure laid down in paragraph (2). 

It is clearly understood that, except as expressly 
provided in the fourth paragraph of clause 5, nothing in 
this undertaking is to prejudice the position of employers 
or employees after the war. 


(Chairman of Workmen's Representatives). 

(Secretary of Workmen's Representatives). 
March 19, 1915. 

The refusal of the engineers to come in was so 
serious a matter that a further conference was held on 
March 25 between Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Runciman 
and the representatives of the Amalgamated Society 
of Engineers. At this meeting the engineers gave their 
assent, on condition that the following further state- 
ments made by Mr. Lloyd George were put on record. 
There had been no statement about the limitation of 
profits in the general agreement, and the safeguards 
provided had seemed insufficient to the Amalgamated 
Society of Engineers' delegates : 

(i) That it is the intention of the Government to con- 
clude arrangements with all important firms engaged 
wholly or mainly upon engineering and shipbuilding work 
for war purposes, under which these profits will be limited 
with a view to securing that benefit resulting from the 
relaxation of trade restrictions or practices shall accrue 
to the State. 


(2) That the relaxation of trade practices contemplated 
in the agreement relates solely to work done for war pur- 
poses during the war period. 

(3) That in the case of the introduction of new inventions 
which were not in existence in the pre-war period the class 
of workman to be employed on this work after the war 
should be determined according to the practice prevailing 
before the war in the case of the class of work most nearly 

(4) That on demand by the workmen the Government 
Department concerned will be prepared to certify whether 
the work in question is needed for war purposes. 

(5) That the Government will undertake to use its 
influence to secure the restoration of previous conditions 
in every case after the war. 

This statement was signed by Mr. Lloyd George, 
Mr. Runciman, and four representatives of the Amal- 
gamated Society of Engineers. 

It is now time to comment more generally upon the 
results of this Conference, which was at once hailed 
with delight by all sections of the Press, from the 
Times to the New Age. The one side saw in it a way 
of breaking down " the tyranny of Trade Unionism," 
while the other saw in it a new step towards the full 
recognition of Trade Unionism by the State, or rather 
towards a full partnership between the Unions and 
the State in the control of industry. Mr. Lloyd George, 
in an interview published in the Daily Citizen, also 
took the latter line. He spoke of the Conference as 
" opening up a great new chapter in the history of 
Labour in its relations with the State." " If," he 
added, " Labour works this thing in a broad and gener- 
ous spirit and not in a haggling spirit this document 
that was signed on Friday ought to be the great 
charter for Labour." 


As the New Age said upon this occasion : " Being a 
man without either prejudices or principles, Mr. Lloyd 
George has a capacity for pouring himself into any set 
of circumstances and taking their shape." The danger 
of such a man, however, lies in the facility with which 
he can adopt the phraseology of the moment without 
understanding its spirit. There can be no question 
that the " great charter " of Labour means something 
very different to Mr. Lloyd George from what it means 
to Mr. Orage if, indeed, it means to the former any- 
thing at all, and did not merely serve him as a con- 
venient form of words. It was no doubt a very 
significant departure for the State to confer with the 
great Unions, over the heads of the employers, concern- 
ing the organisation of industry ; but despite this step 
in advance, it may be argued that the effect of the 
recommendations adopted was to weaken, rather than 
to strengthen, Trade Unionism. 

For, in the first place, the Conference did not, as was 
at the time assumed, speak with a united voice. The 
miners, refusing to accept compulsory arbitration on 
any terms, left at the end of the first day ; the Amal- 
gamated Society of Engineers, whose concurrence was 
vital to the settlement of the problem of war munitions, 
refused to concur in the recommendations issued by 
the Conference. The " complete agreement " of which 
all the papers made so much was, in fact, no agreement 
at all. The miners were bent on pushing their demands, 
irrespective of the Government's schemes ; the engineers 
were not prepared to accept the agreement without 
further safeguards ; the transport workers, though 
they signed, pressed for a separate advisory committee 
to deal with questions of transport alone. 

Complete agreement was, no doubt, brought con- 


siderably nearer by the entry of the engineers into the 
agreement ; but even so, the document left many 
problems unsolved. Compulsory arbitration was ac- 
cepted ; but no indication was given by the Govern- 
ment of the principle by which they wished the 
arbitrators to be guided in wages disputes. 

What is far more important is the question of what 
is going to happen when the war ends. This was at 
the bottom of the delay of the engineers in coming to 
an agreement with the Government. Obviously, if 
the Trade Unions relax their rules for the period of the 
war, they must be given safeguards that their rights 
will not be infringed later on. The original demand 
of the employers, as we have seen, was for a holocaust 
of all rules and regulations ; it was at least encouraging 
to find that the Government did nothing to countenance 
so preposterous a claim. The recommendations pro- 
vided for special scheduled relaxations of particular 

But there remained one fatal weakness in the Govern- 
ment's scheme. While the employer was to deposit 
with the Government a guarantee that he would return 
to the old customs after the war, absolutely no State 
machinery was set up by which relaxations were to 
be scheduled now and refusals to return to the old 
rules prevented later on. The task of scheduling 
relaxations was left to the employers and the Unions, 
and it is not difficult to see that there will be no dearth 
of disputes after the war as to the nature of the old 
customs and the departures from them. The Govern- 
ment promised, at the second conference, to " use its 
influence," but still nothing was said about the form 
which its interference should take. The workers 
cannot be expected to abandon their hard-won rules 


the Magna Charta and Habeas Corpus of Labour 
unless they are sure that the general guarantee given 
by the employer will be enforced in every particular 
instance. Inevitably, numerous disputes will arise as 
to the restoration of old rules. There must be in every 
district bodies equipped with the knowledge and the 
power to see that workers get their due. In fact, now, 
it would seem, is the time for the establishment of 
those Industrial Courts, purely judicial in character, 
and confined to questions of interpretation, for the 
trial of Labour cases which have been so long suggested 
without avail. 

The view seems to be very general that Trade Union 
rules form a material drag upon production, and that 
their removal will mean a great impetus to industry. 
This is very far from being the case. There are certain 
rules restricting the employment of semi-skilled 
workers, which, in view of the shortage of skilled 
workmen, are now hampering production. These 
rules might be relaxed for the time being, provided 
real safeguards for their restoration can be afforded to 
the workers. But the bulk of the Trade Union working 
rules are not of this character. They are designed to 
protect the workman at his work, and are really a 
species of industrial health legislation extending the 
principles embodied in the Factory Acts. Especially 
is this the case with the rules relating to overtime and 
to the number of workers required for the manning 
of the various machines. They are essentially pro- 
tections for the worker against sickness and industrial 
accident, and with their removal will go a big increase 
in both. The employer, careless of the future of the 
employee, may desire to live only for the day, and to 
sweep away all these restrictions ; but if the nation 


wants the maximum production over a considerable 
period of time, it will be wise not to be too hasty in 
helping the employer to overwork his men. Already, 
overtime rules and the like have been strained to 
breaking-point, and already there is an alarming 
increase in the number of trade unionists who are on 
sick benefit. If the employers are given their way, 
and if the process of speeding-up is carried further, 
the result may be a momentary acceleration of pro- 
duction, but in the long run it will be a decrease. 
Trade Union rules serve the interests of the nation as 
well as the interests of the men who framed them. 

The Treasury conference was significant in that it 
seemed to mark the adoption of a new Labour policy 
by the Government. Till then, the workers had been 
ignored wherever possible ; no attempt had been made 
to conciliate them, presumably because they seemed, 
judged by their Parliamentary leaders, perfectly ready 
to give everything for nothing. It would appear that 
the Government at last realised that there was a 
growing volume of discontent ; but if it desired to allay 
this and to secure Labour's co-operation, it would 
have done well to begin by raising the wages of all 
Government servants to meet the rise in prices, and 
by laying down the same principle for the guidance 
of the Committee on Production and of the various 
arbitrators it may appoint. When it had done that, 
it would have been able to consult the Trade Unions 
with better hopes of a really final settlement ; but it 
should beware of attempting to impose a general 
measure of compulsory arbitration against the will 
of the great mass of workers, or of taking at their 
face value the interested appeals of employers for 
the abrogation of the essential safeguards of Trade 



Unionism. For the working rules of the Trade Unions, 
and not last week's provisional agreement with the 
Government, form the true charter of the liberties 
of Labour. 

Since I have passed certain unfavourable comments 
upon the Treasury agreement, it is only fair that I 
should mention the fact that it has struck some 
qualified observers in another light. Writing in the 
Daily Citizen on March 24, primarily for the purpose 
of getting the Amalgamated Society of Engineers to 
agree to the document, Mr. G. N. Barnes gave the 
following summary of its provisions : 

1. The document provides for the maintenance of 
existing rates of pay for any particular job, so that there 
is no danger of a reduction of wages. On the contrary, 
there is in this stipulation as to rates of pay a double safe- 
guard. It not only maintains the wage-rate, but sets up 
a tendency towards ultimate automatic displacement of 
the new class of labour. The employer, if he has to pay 
the same rates of pay, will want to retain the higher degree 
of skill. 

2. The provision as to rates being based on the job 
rather than on the individual worker affords a means of 
lessening the wretched squabbles about demarcation of 
work which have weakened and discredited trade unionism. 
It has been open hitherto to the employer to employ a 
worker on lower pay on the ground of a lower degree of 
skill. That has been, in fact, the underlying cause of most 
demarcation trouble. This document removes it for the 
time being. The employer must pay the same for a job, 
no matter who does the job. 

3. The employers are to register any change in work- 
shop practice, and, where practicable, give notice of it to 
the workpeople, who, providing there is no stoppage of 
work, will then have a right to demand discussion of it. 
This is actually an improvement on the existing working 
agreement between engineering employers and the Amal- 


gamated Society of Engineers, because under that agree- 
ment employers are not required in any circumstances to 
give notice of change. Moreover, under the new document 
any change has to be recorded, and such record has to be 
open to Government inspection. The document, therefore, 
provides for a return on the termination of the war to pre- 
document conditions. 

4. Employers are to be required to give an under- 
taking embodying the above provisions as a condition of 
getting Government work, and even then they have to be 
subject to another condition limiting their profits, this 
latter to be made a feature of the separate agreement 
between them and the Government. Employers, therefore, 
become really civil servants. They will have no interest 
in reducing wages. On the contrary, they will be disposed 
to increase them, because their profits will be in the form 
of interest on outlay. 

5. An advisory committee is to be appointed repre- 
sentative of the organised workers engaged in the production 
of Government requirements for consultation either by 
the Government or by the workmen. This committee will 
consist of trained and trusted trade union leaders, who, 
in this connection, will have as their chief concern the 
interests of organised Labour. The Amalgamated Society 
of Engineers' members may rest assured that nothing will 
be assented to which will be in any way unfair or un- 
necessary, or likely to weaken trade unionism. 

I conclude, therefore, that the legitimate interests of 
engineers are quite safe. There is one omission in the 
document, namely that there is no provision for sub- 
sidising unskilled or semi-skilled workers' unions when 
the war is ended. We are calling upon these men to serve 
our turn in the war, and we are deliberately planning then 
to throw them overboard. This is not fair ; they are 
willing to take the risk. But that is no reason why we 
should take advantage of them. We should be ready 
when the time comes to ease their lot by a special subsidy 
under Part II. of the Insurance Act. Perhaps Mr. Lloyd 
George will make a note of this. 


The validity of this reasoning depended on the 
assumption that the Government guarantees were 
satisfactory. I have already given my reasons for 
rejecting this assumption. 

So different a critic as the New Age also welcomed 
the Conference as a beginning of a system of partner- 
ship between the State and the Unions. " Never 
before in the history of human society," said the 
writer of " Notes of the Week " on March 25, " has 
the executive of a great State addressed so frank, 
so egalitarian an appeal to the proletariat of their 

The real question is whether the frankness of the 
appeal was more than verbal. This obviously depended 
on the working-out of the scheme laid down at the 
Conference. The first step was the formation of a 
Labour Advisory Committee, consisting of the seven 
Trade Unionists who had drafted the scheme, to 
advise the Government on questions connected with 
the organisation of Labour. This Committee was 
duly appointed as soon as the Engineers had accepted 
the agreement ; but there were for a long time practic- 
ally no signs of its functioning, except that it issued a 
highly adverse report on the Government White Paper 
on " Lost Time." It came to the fore again, as we 
shall see, with the formation of the Ministry of Muni- 
tions in June. 

Far more important are the local Armaments 
Committees which soon afterwards began to be set 
up in some of the chief centres, especially the North- 
East Coast and the Clyde. These two committees 
consist of an equal number of representatives of 
employers and workmen, together with a certain 
number of Government and other supposedly " im- 


partial " representatives. If the Treasury agreement 
was to have any meaning, it was obviously necessary 
to create local machinery for the purpose of carrying 
it into effect. This could only be done by means of 
local Committees and Sub-Committees in touch with 
every workshop. 

The North-East Coast Munitions of War Committee 
was the first to be established and will serve to indicate 
the character of the others. 

Though there are grave dangers still to be faced, 
it may be said that, on the whole, the workers did not 
make a bad beginning, thanks largely to the efforts 
of Mr. John Hill and the boilermakers. On the 
North-East Coast Committee they have seven repre- 
sentatives as against seven of the employers and a 
certain number appointed by the Government. In 
actual voting they will clearly still be outweighed by 
the supposedly " impartial " nominees of the State ; 
but if the Trade Unions rise to the occasion, mere 
voting will not be the deciding factor. The Trade 
Union representation on the Committee is strong 
enough, if it only uses its strength to good purpose, 
to secure reasonable terms. The mere fact that, on 
such a body, the workers have been able to secure 
nominally equal representation with the employers 
proves that neither the Government nor the masters 
dare offend the Trade Unions at the present time. 
They know full well that the compliance of organised 
Labour is absolutely essential to the rapid output of 
munitions, and they are now prepared, much against 
their will, to make concessions. Everything upon the 
Committee will depend on the use which the Labour 
representatives make of their new-found power. If 
they refuse to be terrorised into giving way when the 


employers make unreasonable demands they have a 
good chance of making satisfactory terms. 

The Committee has, moreover, a far wider signific- 
ance than any immediate advantage the workers can 
hope to gain from it. It will go down to history as the 
first definite and official recognition of the right of the 
workers to a say in the management of their own 
industries. Here for the first time the nominees of 
the workers meet those of the masters on equal terms, 
to discuss not merely wages, hours, or conditions of 
labour, but the actual business of production. Under 
stress of the emergency the workers are being recognised, 
however grudgingly, as partners in industry. 

This does not mean that Trade Unionists should 
have thrown up their caps and proclaimed that the 
revolution had come. Never was there such need as 
there was during May and June for wise and wakeful 
leadership and for a vigorous and intelligent rank and 
file. Later developments have clearly shown that 
neither the Government nor the employers have the 
smallest intention of giving Labour an inch more than 
they are forced to give, and that both will be equally 
eager to take back at the earliest opportunity any 
advantage that may now be wrung from them. More- 
over, Labour was being asked to make large concessions 
in return for the infinitesimally small share of responsi- 
bility which was being conceded to it. 

If, however, the Trade Union leaders had been 
persuaded to play their cards well, they might have 
been able to make it impossible for the State to return 
to its time-honoured practice of ignoring Labour. 
They might have succeeded in forcing the State to 
abandon to some extent its old alliance with capital, 
and to join them in wringing from the employers not 


only better wages but some share in industrial responsi- 
bility and self-government. The capitalist system 
has been tried in the present emergency and has 
proved itself wasteful, anti-social, and inefficient. 
This even the capitalist Government has been com- 
pelled to recognise, and it has turned at last to the 
Unions to help it out of its difficulty. 

It was never expected, of course, that the Committees 
would by themselves solve the problem : they were 
merely an instrument which the workers could have 
used, if they had realised the position, for the purpose 
of righting the capitalist in the heart of his own country 
the control of industry. If, on the other hand, as 
recent events seem to indicate, the Trade Unions desire 
to commit suicide, the more perfect the weapon the 
more finished a job they are likely to make of their 
self-destruction. It is vital that Trade Unionists 
should be alive to the opportunities and the dangers 
which confront them. The wage-system will only be 
destroyed when the capitalist ceases to control industry. 

As I write, we have had a few weeks' experience of 
the working of these local Committees, and already 
very grave defects have presented themselves. The 
most serious fact is that they have so far had neither 
definite functions nor definite powers : as in the case 
of much of the machinery set up during the war, the 
Government founded them, and then refrained from 
telling them what to do and from empowering them to 
do what they wanted to do. On the Clyde, for instance, 
one of the chief tasks of the Committee has been to 
stimulate good time-keeping. It has had no powers 
whatsoever under the law in this respect ; but of this 
the bulk of the workers have not been aware. It has 
therefore employed a gigantic system of bluff, com- 


manding where it has had no right to command, and, 
for the most part, getting itself obeyed. Probably the 
same is true of other centres. 

In other centres, while the employers are show- 
ing great activity on the Munitions Committees, the 
working-class leaders are remaining utterly apathetic. 
In some important centres the workmen's side of the 
Munitions Committee has hardly met ; in other cases 
the leaders have not even thought it worth while to 
claim equal representation on the local Committees. 

At first it seemed possible that this lack of definite 
function was largely due to the inchoate condition in 
which the national organisation of industry still 
remained, and that it would be altered as the Ministry 
of Munitions got into full working order. This ex- 
pectation has been completely falsified by the scheme 
finally adopted by Mr. Lloyd George, in which, as we 
shall see, the Trade Unions seem to be given no powers 
at all. 

No sooner were the Treasury Conferences over and 
a provisional settlement arrived at in the case of Trade 
Union rules than the nation was informed that, after 
all, Trade Union rules were not the cause of the 
insufficient output of munitions. Drink was found to 
be the evil, and was stigmatised by Mr. Lloyd George 
as worse than the Prussians. At once all the papers 
became full of frenzied attacks on the slack and 
intemperate habits of the working-class, although, 
only a week or two before, they had been acclaiming 
the great settlement arrived at between the State and 
the Trade Unions. Prohibitionists saw a chance of 
forcing their policy on the country under cover of the 
war, and Mr. Lloyd George went about insulting the 
workers whom he had so recently cozened. 


The whole campaign was very carefully arranged. 
It began with a deputation from the Shipbuilding 
Employers' Federation to Mr. Lloyd George. It was 
continued in the Press and in a series of speeches by 
Mr. Lloyd George, which even drew a reply from Mr. 
Asquith. Just when all over the country we were 
being told that drink was the cause of the small output, 
Mr. Asquith went to Newcastle and made a speech 
which discredited the whole idea. " Nor, again," 
said he, " is it true or fair to suggest that there has been 
anything in the nature of a general slackness in this 
branch of industry on the part of either employers or 
employed. I am told on the best authority that the 
main armament firms registered the very high average 
figure of from sixty-seven to sixty-nine hours per week 
per man." 

The campaign reached a climax with the publication, 
on May i Labour Day of a Report and Statistics of 
Bad Time kept in Shipbuilding, Munitions, and Trans- 
port Areas, presented to the House of Commons by 
Mr. Lloyd George. This consists of reports from various 
officers in the service of the War Office and the Ad- 
miralty, from the Home Office, from certain factory 
inspectors, and from the Shipbuilding Employers' 
Federation. This astonishing document, since it bore 
the Government imprint, was at once treated as 
authoritative by the greater part of the Press, which 
did not hesitate, on the strength of it, to denounce 
large sections of the workers as slackers and drunkards. 
In fact, it contains hardly any definite figures : it is 
drawn up throughout in an ex parte manner, and, 
even taken at its face-value, it does not substantiate 
the allegations which it makes. The Labour Party's 
protest in the House of Commons was certainly 


none too strong. " Until some method is found," 
said Mr. Arthur Henderson, " whereby the other 
side of the case can be stated, it will be impossible 
for the Government to expect from the Labour Party 
a continuance of that solid support which they have 
given during the period of the war." And, what is 
far more important, it is impossible for the Government 
to expect the co-operation of Labour in the workshops 
if insults of this kind are to be flung at them without a 
chance being given them to reply. 

Mr. Henderson dwelt on the fact that " all the 
evidence against the workers is that of employers or 
officials." " The workmen's side of the case has never 
been stated, and, what is more, has never been asked." 
The Government seems to have accepted the allegations 
of the shipbuilding employers at their face-value it 
even printed them in an official document without 
giving the workers a chance of answering them and 
it is plain, from the White Paper itself, that a lead 
was given to Government officials to sum up against 
the workers. Methods like these are calculated to have 
a far more adverse effect on output than any amount 
of drinking. 

Let me examine the allegations made in the White 
Paper in more detail. In the first place, it is noticeable 
that throughout no comparative figures are given. 
Though the employers often speak of what they call 
" normal time " under peace conditions, they make 
no comparison between the actual hours worked 
during, say, March 1915, and a similar month in peace 
time. The fact is that the " normal time " to which 
they refer has no relation to actual time worked ; they 
are comparing the actual hours worked now with a 
full week under peace conditions. The comparison 


is, then, obviously absurd. In the second place, no 
figures are given of the time actually worked during 
the earlier months of the war. It is, to say the least 
of it, probable that the publication of these figures 
would show that much of the lost time at present is 
due not to drink, but to overstrain. The rapid growth 
in the number of Trade Unionists drawing sickness 
benefit supports this contention. 

Moreover, no indication is given of the method 
adopted by the employers of reckoning lost time. 
All the figures which show a considerable amount of 
time lost refer to ironworkers in the shipyards. But 
such work is carried on under conditions which almost 
necessarily involve the loss of time. The work is to 
a great extent outdoor work, and is affected by weather 
conditions. If the weather is bad, either the work 
is stopped and time is lost, or the worker, if he goes 
on working, is exposed to climatic conditions that 
cannot but impair his efficiency and drive him to the 
public-house. The boilermaker often leaves his work 
wet through ; he has the choice of catching cold or 
adjourning to the nearest public-house. Only now 
are the employers beginning to build shelters under 
which the boilermaker can work. Had they done this 
long ago, they would have saved the country a large 
proportion of the time that has been lost on these 

Again, the employers seem to assume that they have 
a right to expect a full week's work from every worker. 
In view of the very heavy nature of much shipyard 
work, this contention is in itself absurd. It is the more 
absurd in that they appear to ignore the fact, the 
importance of which is recognised in some of the 
reports by Government officials, that the average 


physique and character of the men are now nothing 
like what they are in times of peace. Many of the 
best workers have enlisted, and the men who have 
been taken on in their places are in many cases, apart 
from drink, physically incapable of a full week of such 
hard work as, say, riveting. Lost time due to the 
" broken squad " difficulty, which is in the main the 
employers' own fault, is also ignored. 

If the employers are careless in their allegations, 
they are at least careful in their reticences. They have 
made no answer to the men's allegations that they are 
keeping many men on private work, and so delaying 
Government work, and that they are keeping the best 
men on private work, and giving the Government the 
benefit of the inefncients. A Government purporting 
to be impartial should surely have taken account of 
the criticisms passed upon each other by both sides. 

So much for the employers' evidence, which forms 
the most heavily documented part of the White Paper. 
It is tainted at the source, and can only be considered 
when the men have been given an opportunity of 
answering it. I come now to the evidence of Govern- 
ment officials. 

The figures showing the hours worked in Govern- 
ment dockyards are highly satisfactory, and reflect 
credit on the officials and on the workers. The system 
under which work is organised in the Government 
yards is, however, so different from that obtaining in 
private shipyards as to afford no basis of comparison. 
The Government workers have been afforded reasonable 
periods of rest ; the Government's best workers have 
not been allowed to enlist ; the Government has no 
profitable private contracts to which it can divert its 
best workers. 


Apart from the reports of the Home Office and the 
Factory Inspectors, the official evidence is, for the 
most part, mere generalisation. It ranges from Sir 
John Jellicoe's letter, which is obviously a mere 
second-hand impression based on the one-sided evidence 
which alone he has had an opportunity of hearing, to 
absurd generalisations like that of Captain Greatorex, 
Director of Naval Equipment, who roundly declares 
that " the condition of labour is deplorable." 

More might have been learnt from the reports of 
the special inspectors sent out by the Home Office to 
some of the big centres ; but these have unfortunately 
been condensed into a series of impersonal reports of 
a somewhat one-sided character. Even so, they 
cannot be said to bear out the alarming statements of 
the employers and the War Office and Admiralty 
officials. They lay stress on the fact that inefficient 
workers are now being regularly employed, and they 
point out certain useful reforms which might well be 
carried out by the employers. For instance, where 
there is no " pooling of squads," the absence of one 
man often sends all the rest to the public-house ; but 
this difficulty can be, and is being, overcome. More- 
over, the system of paying the whole wages of a squad 
to the head man of it leads to treating. And so on. 

One very important report, which is in danger of 
being overlooked, is that of the Factory Inspector 
for the Clyde district. " There does not appear," he 
says, "to be any noticeable increase of drinking since 
the war began. The quantity consumed is about 
normal. The same men frequent the same premises, 
and those inclined to drink too much continue as 
before the war commenced. . . . While drinking is an 
important cause of bad time-keeping, it is only one 


cause. . . . Riveting is hard and exhausting work, 
and it is frequently and necessarily carried on in trying 
conditions exposure in winter to bitter cold and 
damp. The temptation to take a morning or a day 
off during very cold or very hot weather is great, as 
the riveter knows he is indispensable at present, and 
will not lose his job if he does lie off." 

Certain obvious recommendations may be made 
as a result of these statistics. Sunday labour is 
wasteful, and conduces in the end to lost time, if it is 
made a regular practice. It should therefore be 
abolished, in the shipbuilding yards at any rate. 
Secondly, a very large proportion of the lost time is 
lost before breakfast. As Mr. Brownlie, Chairman of 
the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, suggested 
some time ago, better time would be kept if work 
started later, as at Woolwich Arsenal. Thirdly, 
excessive hours do not mean good work ; the ship- 
builder's normal day of nine and a half hours is too 
long. Changes in these directions would make far 
more difference to output than any restriction of the 
facilities for drinking. The same may be said of the 
provision of canteens, which, where it has been put into 
effect, has had the result of diminishing drinking 
without compulsion. 

With the few figures in this White Paper that relate 
to engineers and metal workers other than shipyard 
ironworkers, it is not necessary to deal, since it is 
admitted that not even the shadow of a case has been 
made out against them. Drinking, as in normal times, 
is only at all serious in thirsty trades, such as riveting 
and some forms of dock labour, especially coal-heaving. 
With regard to shipyard ironworkers, enough has been 
said to show that the statements in the White Paper 


should be received with the greatest reserve, and that 
Labour had a full right to resent the publication of 
such ex parte documents without any answering 
statement of the men's case. Mr. Henderson pressed 
in the House for a Committee of Enquiry with Labour 
representation, and the Government apparently granted 
this ; but, at the time of writing, there are no signs of 
the Committee's report. Labour has clearly a right 
to demand that the charges made should be either 
withdrawn or substantiated. 

The whole episode matters the less in that the 
whole drink agitation now seems to be dead and 
buried. The Government has indeed secured further 
powers over licensed premises in munition areas ; but 
Mr. Lloyd George's far-reaching proposals for liquor 
taxation have met with ignominious defeat at the 
hands of the licensed interests, and have been com- 
pletely dropped. It is a queer commentary on the 
state of Britain that they should have been averted 
not by the action of the workers, whom Mr. Lloyd 
George had insulted, but by a handful of brewers, 
publicans, and distillers. 

Since these events there have been great changes 
in the Government itself. The Liberal Government 
has fallen, and has been replaced by a Coalition 
Ministry, including Labour as well as Unionist repre- 
sentatives. What is of more immediate relevance is 
the establishment of a separate Ministry of Munitions, 
with Mr. Lloyd George at its head. 

The Liberal Ministry fell partly owing to the 
machinations of a section of the Press, which, despite 
its success, suffered a good deal of discredit. It there- 
fore sought to recover its prestige by raising the cry 
of conscription. In view of the absurdity of demanding 


conscription when we had already more soldiers than 
we were able to arm, this cry was changed, in some 
quarters, into the cry for industrial conscription. 
Every one, it was urged, who was not a soldier or a 
worker in some absolutely essential trade, should be 
forced into the making of munitions, and martial law 
should be proclaimed in the workshops. 

It is difficult to argue seriously with those who 
make these proposals, in view of their obvious absurdity. 
The number of unskilled workers who can be profitably 
employed is strictly limited by the number of skilled 
workers available. So far the whole difficulty has 
lain in the shortage of skilled workers. It may be 
possible to increase the number of these : indeed, this 
is already being done. Men are being brought back 
from the Colours, skilled men are being imported from 
Canada and elsewhere, and very large numbers of 
semi-skilled and unskilled workers are being promoted. 
But there is absolutely no indication that, even with 
this increase, there will be any shortage of unskilled 
workers. On grounds of expediency, there is absolutely 
no reason for compulsion either in the army or in the 
workshop. 1 Those who advocate compulsion want 
compulsion for its own sake, and not for any practical 
benefit it would bring. 

As I write, Parliament has just passed a Bill pro- 
posing to establish a compulsory National Register 
of all persons of both sexes between the ages of 
fifteen and sixty-five. Forms are to be sent out on 
which each person may state whether he or she is 
engaged on any form of war work, or able and willing 
to take up some form of war work, the nature of which 
he is apparently expected to suggest. As of the 

1 On the shortage in agriculture, see Chapter IX. 


87,000 women who enrolled themselves some months 
ago on the voluntary register of war workers only about 
2000 have been found employment, there seems no 
reason for going in search of more female labour. Nor 
is there any shortage whatsoever of any save skilled 
male workers, and for these it cannot be suggested that 
a comprehensive national system of registration is of 
the smallest use. It seems probable that the register 
scheme was started in the Coalition Cabinet by the 
conscriptionists, who thought it would make both 
military and industrial conscription easier. Then it 
was probably whittled down in the course of Cabinet 
discussion to its present ridiculous shape. " Par- 
turiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus." 

The real problem, as the Government well knows, 
is the problem of organising the Labour that is already 
in the workshops. In this connection, the solution 
which naturally suggests itself to the military and to 
the governing-class mind is martial law. We have 
already seen a beginning made in this direction with 
the notorious Dockers' Battalion of Liverpool, blessed 
by capitalists, some Trade Union officials, the Director 
of the Liverpool Labour Exchange, and Lord Derby. 
It is necessary to say something about this extra- 
ordinary body, more especially as Mr. Lloyd George, 
on his visit to Liverpool to organise Labour, saw fit 
to go out of his way to inspect it, and as there is more 
than a hint of imitation of it in the special bodies of 
munition workers who have now been enrolled. 

The Dockers' Battalion consists entirely of members 
of the National Union of Dock Labourers, and no 
man can continue to belong to it unless he pays his 
Trade Union dues regularly. The President and Vice- 
President of the Union are sergeants in the battalion, 



and Mr. James Sexton, the General Secretary, has given 
it his blessing. Yet there is not the smallest doubt that 
it is exceedingly unpopular with the Liverpool dockers. 
On April 18 a meeting was held, confined to members 
of the Union, at which Lord Derby, Mr. Sexton, and 
others were to speak, for the purpose of explaining the 
objects of the battalion and clearing away suspicion 
with regard to it. In such a meeting, at which only 
Trade Unionists were present, not a single speech 
could be delivered, so great was the men's suspicion 
that the battalion was intended to act as a strike- 
breaking body. In the middle of May a docker was 
sent to prison for describing a member of the battalion 
as a scab, and there have been many similar incidents. 
The speech which Lord Derby intended to make 
was communicated to the Press. 

" What put the idea into my head," he says, " was that 
so many dockers were men who would like to be soldiers, 
but were prevented by medical reasons or by age from 
taking service, though these causes did not prevent them 
from being good dockers. I also wanted to prevent any 
idea of soldiers being brought in to do the work of the port, 
and I thought it would be a good idea to form a number 
of companies to do as far as possible anything the Govern- 
ment wanted, to wear khaki uniform, and to be entitled 
to the medal for service at the end of the war. When I 
decided to form them I had to try to avoid two things, 
one of which was that there should be no displacement of 
any one now in employment, and to disarm any suspicion 
that this was a strike battalion. ... In order to avoid it 
being in any way a strike-breaking battalion the rule was 
made that only Union men should be admitted." 

However, on another occasion, as reported in the 
Times of April 9, Lord Derby, while asserting that it 
was not a strike-breaking battalion, as it would be 


worked " in conformity with Union rules and military 
discipline," added that he would not " look on it as a 
strike-breaking battalion if it came to be used to do 
the work of men who were fighting their own superior 
officials and by so doing had been delaying goods going 
to the front." In view of the troubled state of the 
port, and of Lord Derby's own statements, the Liverpool 
dockers seem justified in regarding the battalion as 
suspect. If it was not founded for the purpose of 
breaking strikes, it might at any rate very easily be 
converted to such base uses. Soldiers have already 
acted as strike-breakers more than once during the 
present war, 1 and the Dockers' Battalion, being sub- 
ject to military discipline, could clearly be used in the 
same way. 

The workers are rightly suspicious of every attempt 
to introduce martial law into industry. Many of them 
remember how Briand crushed the great French 
railway strike, and the mere threat of compulsion has 
been enough to cause one great Trade Union to ask 
the Trade Union Congress to inaugurate a national 
campaign against it. The temper of those who favour 
compulsion was well exemplified in a letter from Lord 
Methuen to the Times in January. Speaking of 
compulsory training in South Africa, he adds this 
comment : 

We worked on Lord Kitchener's admirable Australia 

1 On February 19 the Isle of Man authorities used soldiers to 
unload a vessel during a strike. At Northampton, members of the 
Army Service Corps acted as blacklegs under orders at the end of 
February. Territorials were sent back to their old work at Messrs. 
Foden's motor-works during a strike in April. Royal Engineers 
took the place of joiners on strike at Stobs Camp, near Edinburgh, 
in April ; and the Birkenhead gasworks were kept going by soldiers 
during a strike of municipal employees. 


scheme in forming the Citizen Army in South Africa. 
Little did we anticipate that within three years this force 
should have scotched a strike and quelled a rebellion. 

The same desire to crush industrial rebellion is 
behind the demand for military conscription and the 
demand for industrial conscription. The workers 
would do well to resist both equally. 

It would indeed be madness for the Government to 
try to force a system of martial law upon the workers. 
If industry is to be organised nationally, it can only 
be so organised by and through the great industrial 
organisations. The way is open to a full partnership 
between the State and the Trade Unions, and there 
was at one time a hope that this was the course the 
Government intended to follow. The debate early 
in May, when the Government introduced into the 
House of Commons its Bill establishing a Ministry of 
Munitions, was significant. The Bill, in its original 
form at least, seemed to sanction the application of 
industrial conscription by Order in Council. This 
roused so much opposition that the Government 
amended the Bill in Committee to rule out that 
possibility. This did not of course mean that 
the Government could no longer adopt industrial 
conscription ; it meant only that it must secure 
compulsory powers by special legislation if it desired 

The first indications of the Government's policy 
were furnished by Mr. Lloyd George's early speeches 
as Minister of Munitions, and especially by the second 
great Conference with representatives of the Unions l 
held on June 10, presumably for the discussion of this 

1 For the bodies represented, see the account of the first Con- 
ference, p. 182. The miners were again, significantly, absent. 


very question. At this Conference Mr. Lloyd George 
made the following statement : 

They talk about the conscription of labour. I don't 
want conscription of labour at all. All I want to do is to 
be able to place men where they are most needed to increase 
the output of munitions. 

The Conference passed a resolution empowering the 
National Labour Advisory Committee appointed in 
March " to agree to such measures as, without detriment 
to the interests of the workers, will ensure an adequate 
supply of the necessary munitions for the prosecution 
of the war with the greatest vigour." 

When Mr. Lloyd George said that he did not want 
industrial conscription, he meant, as his later actions 
clearly proved, that he knew a trick worth two of that. 
He felt that the Trade Union leaders, at any rate in 
the munition industries, were safely in his net, and he 
proposed to land his fish in the easiest way. Already, 
in the Committees set up soon after his appointment 
as Minister of Munitions, there were signs that the 
Trade Unions were to be conceded as little as possible. 
In Manchester, for instance, the Central Committee 
consists entirely of business men without any Trade 
Union representatives. There is also a Labour Advisory 
Committee, consisting of an equal number of repre- 
sentatives of employers and employed, to deal with 
specifically Labour questions. It seems likely that 
the only power that will be possessed by this Committee 
will be that of facilitating the abrogation of Trade 
Union safeguards. 

Even while he posed as deprecating compulsion, Mr. 
Lloyd George, in his early speeches as Minister of 
Munitions, was always hinting darkly at his powers 
under the Defence of the Realm Acts. These Acts 


conferred on the Government practically unlimited 
power over the employer. Works can be comman- 
deered, and the employer can be ordered to produce 
whatever the Government needs, and to put in such 
machinery as it commands. The question of com- 
pensation is left to be settled privately ; but the 
Government's policy so far does not lead to the belief 
that it is likely to behave ungenerously to the propertied 
interests. Over Labour, the Acts gave the Government 
wide, but limited, powers. It could order the worker 
to work as it directed, while he remained in employ- 
ment ; but there was nothing in the Acts to prevent 
him from throwing up his job, either individually Or 
in concert with others. That is to say, there was 
nothing in the Acts to justify industrial conscription 
or to prevent strikes. This was made clear by a 
question and answer in the House of Commons on 
March 10. 

Mr. PONSONBY One of the results of the Bill would 
seem to be that in all works to be taken over by the Govern- 
ment the employees would be placed under military law. 

Mr. LLOYD GEORGE No, nothing approaching that ; 
there is not a single phrase in the Bill which would justify 
that suggestion. 

During June, the whole position of the worker was 
changed by the introduction of the Munitions Bill, 
which represented the Government's attempt to 
mobilise the nation's industrial resources. Some of 
its clauses codified and made compulsory the decisions 
of the Treasury Conferences held in March ; but the 
measure as a whole went much farther, and made far 
greater inroads on the rights and powers of Trade 
Unionism. It was, in fact, a highly dangerous measure, 
and none the less dangerous because Mr. Lloyd George 


succeeded in persuading many of the Trade Union 
leaders to accept it. 

The new Minister of Munitions was far too clever 
to act without consulting the Trade Union leaders in 
advance. As we saw, a series of conferences was held 
during June, at which he laid before them his proposals 
for meeting the emergency. The National Labour 
Advisory Committee, in consultation with him, drew 
up proposals, which were incorporated, in the form in 
which he accepted them, in the Munitions Bill. These 
proposals were put before a full Conference of Trade 
Union leaders representing the munition industries, 1 
and were carried by a majority, though a minority 
expressed itself against the provisions making arbitra- 
tion compulsory. Presumably in order to stifle public 
discussion, and to prevent opposition from gathering 
force among the rank and file of the Trade Unions, the 
results of this Conference were not made public until 
Mr. Lloyd George introduced his Bill, and the Bill 
was then rushed through without any adequate dis- 
cussion in Parliament. It is scandalous that a measure 
vitally affecting the whole position of Labour should 
have been hurried through in this fashion at a moment's 
notice. It is a scandal that the Government should 
have taken this course ; it is still more a scandal that 
the Trade Union leaders and the Labour Party should 
have acquiesced in it. 

The Bill, when it was made public, proved to be 
-even worse than had been expected ; nor did the 
amendments inserted during its one day in Committee 
improve it in any important particular. It is necessary 
to criticise its provisions in some detail, since it has 
defined anew the whole status of the worker. 

1 But not the miners or the cotton operatives. 


First and foremost, it is a measure of compulsory 
arbitration. On all kinds of munition work (which is 
very widely denned in the Act) strikes and lock-outs 
are forbidden, and, failing direct settlement without 
stoppage between the parties, disputes must be referred 
to arbitration. Such reference may be either to the 
Committee on Production, or to a single arbitrator 
appointed by the Board of Trade, or to a court of 
arbitration representing the two parties with an 
" impartial " chairman nominated by the Board of 
Trade. If the parties fail to agree on a method of 
reference, this, too, is decided by the Board of Trade. 

Moreover, compulsory arbitration does not apply 
to munition work alone, but also to any difference on 
" any other work of any description if this part of this 
Act is applied to such a difference by His Majesty by 
Proclamation on the ground that in the opinion of His 
Majesty it is expedient in the national interest that this 
part of this Act should apply thereto." Thus, by mere 
proclamation, without any reference to Parliament 
being necessary, workers in any industry may be 
subjected to compulsory arbitration. 

This position is not really modified by an amend- 
ment inserted by Mr. Lloyd George in Committee. We 
saw that the miners left the first Treasury Conference, 
and were not represented at subsequent conferences, 
because they refused to accept compulsory arbitration. 
While the Munitions Bill was in preparation, they, and 
also the cotton operatives, held separate conferences 
with the Government, at which attempts were made 
to shake their resolution. Nevertheless, thanks largely 
to the stand made by Mr. Robert Smillie and Mr. 
Vernon Hartshorn on behalf of the miners, both in- 
dustries refused to accept the suggestions made. They 


argued that they had already elaborate machinery for 
the settlement of disputes, and that the existing methods 
would be quite adequate, and far more effective than 
the suggested compulsion. In the speech in which he 
introduced the Bill, Mr. Lloyd George said that if the 
miners refused to come under the Act he would not 
force them to do so. At a further meeting, he asked 
them for some sort of guarantees against stoppages 
during the war. 

Whether or no the answer they made was unsatis- 
factory, the Bill as it stood after amendment, included 
all industries. All the miners and cotton operatives 
got was the insertion of the following provision : 

If in the case of any industry the Minister of Munitions 
is satisfied that effective means exist to secure a settlement 
without a stoppage of any difference arising on work other 
than munition work, no proclamation shall be made under 
this section with respect to such difference. 

Thus Mr. Lloyd George saved his face, and preserved 
his right, as a last resort, to impose compulsory arbitra- 
tion on the miners and cotton operatives ; but he 
yielded to the extent of allowing that this should be 
done only as a last resort. The miners did gain some- 
thing by standing out against his blandishments. 1 

On the clauses dealing with compulsory arbitration 
Mr. Philip Snowden, who showed himself throughout 
the one Labour member who was really alive to the 
sinister nature of the Bill, moved the following very 
important amendment : 

In considering any application for an advance of rates or 

1 They did not gain much ; for the South Wales miners have 
now been scheduled under the Act, in consequence of their refusal 
to accept Mr. Runciman's proposals for the settlement of their 
dispute (July 16). 


wages the arbitration tribunal should take into account 
any increase in the price of necessaries which may have 
taken place since the beginning of the war, or since the 
previous advance of wages or rates was made. 

The passing of this amendment would have remedied 
one of the most serious defects in the Government's 
Labour policy. Yet Mr. Snowden's amendment was 
defeated by 79 votes to n. Even the Labour Party 
did not vote for it, apart from the I.L.P. group, though 
Mr. J. R. Clynes and Mr. W. C. Anderson spoke for 
it. Mr. Lloyd George resisted, and was seconded by 
Mr. John Hodge. Thus the Government refused to 
allow the arbitrators that guidance which would have 
gone far to remove the workers' suspicion of them. 
Even Liberal papers, like the Nation and the Manchester 
Guardian, expressed their deep regret that this amend- 
ment was not accepted. The Government preferred 
to maintain its earlier policy, on which comment has 
been passed in an earlier chapter. 1 

The second part of the Act deals with the abrogation 
of Trade Union rules and the limitation of capitalist 
profits, which go together. In both cases, the Act 
applies only to a specially created class of " controlled 

Any rule, practice, or custom not having the force of law 
which tends to restrict production or employment shall 
be suspended in the establishment, and if any person incites 
or encourages any employer or person employed to comply, 
or continue to comply, with such a rule, practice, or custom, 
that person shall be guilty of an offence under this Act. 

A special schedule attached to the Act provides 
that the abrogation of Trade Union rules shall be for 

1 See p. 158. 


the period of the war only, that a record of relaxations 
of rule shall be kept (apparently by the employer) and 
shall be open to Government inspection, and that the 
employment of unskilled and semi-skilled labour shall 
not affect the usual rates of wages in the district for 
the class of work concerned. Compulsory arbitration 
extends to disputes on these questions. 

Although the Act gives legislative form to the 
Government's promise to use its influence to secure the 
restoration of pre-war customs after the war, it does 
not appear that these provisions meet the objections 
to the abrogation of Trade Union rules raised in an 
earlier part of this chapter. The reader is referred 
back to what was said there. 1 

The relaxations covered by the Act apply only to 
" controlled establishments," and there is at present 
no indication of the number and character of the 
establishments it is intended to control. This does not 
mean that, where an establishment is not controlled, 
there are to be no relaxations of Trade Union rules, 
but that such relaxations will be made under the 
provisions which existed before the Bill was introduced, 
always with the threat that, if relaxations are not 
allowed, the Government will proclaim an establishment 
to be " controlled." 

Limitation of profits under the Act also applies 
only to controlled establishments, which are establish- 
ments specially proclaimed by Order of the Minister 
of Munitions. In such establishments the "standard 
profits " are to be ascertained, and war profits are to 
be limited to "an amount exceeding by one-fifth the 
standard amount of profits." " The standard amount 
of profits for any period shall be taken to be the average 

1 See pp. 190 ff. 


of the amount of the net profits for the two correspond- 
ing periods completed next before the outbreak of 
war." Presumably in most cases periods means years. 
If this is so, employers are to be limited to a profit 
exceeding by one-fifth the profits made during the 
greatest boom in British engineering. 

This limitation is farcical. The workers are being 
compelled to give up trade customs for which they have 
been fighting for decades, while the employers are 
asked to be content with only 20 per cent clear gain 
over and above what they could make on the top of a 
trade boom. To say the least of it, Mr. Lloyd George's 
application of the doctrine of equal sacrifice seems 
" tinged with a certain bias." 

In addition, it is far from certain that even this 
limitation will be effective. It is no such easy matter 
to compute net profits, especially as allowance is to 
be made to the employer for new machinery which he 
installs to meet the Government's needs. Capitalist 
book-keeping will almost certainly prove equal to 
cheating the Exchequer of even the small deductions 
it proposes to make. There is no effective way of 
limiting profits without abolishing them. The only 
reasonable course was for the Government to assume 
complete control of the munition industries, and to 
pay a fixed rate of interest on bona fide capital to all 

Here again, however, the issue is complicated. The 
Government has expressly said that this special 
limitation of profits in controlled establishments is 
independent of any general taxation of war profits 
that may be imposed later on. It is doubtful whether 
such a tax can be easily imposed so as not to be evaded. 
There is no doubt that the Government could take 


over the munition industry, and abolish profiteering 
in it altogether. 

An essential part of the Bill is the special provision 
for the enlistment of voluntary workers. The agree- 
ment between the Trade Union leaders and the Govern- 
ment included provision for the raising of a voluntary 
force of skilled workers, to work at standard rates 
under special Government control. This enlistment 
was actually begun before the Munitions Bill was 
introduced : the Trade Union leaders gave their help ; 
the National Labour Advisory Committee issued a 
special appeal to skilled workers to enlist ; and within 
a fortnight nearly 100,000 were enrolled. 

So far as rates of wages are concerned, this special 
class of workers is fairly treated. The standard rate 
of the district is guaranteed, and where a man is moved 
into a district other than his own, he is guaranteed 
that his wages shall not be decreased if the district 
rate is lower. Special subsistence and travelling 
allowances are to be paid where they are needed. 
This force of workers is to be absolutely mobile : the 
worker binds himself for six months to work wherever 
he is wanted in any controlled establishment. At the 
end of six months he has the option of re-enlisting. 

This, presumably, is Mr. Lloyd George's adaptation 
of the " Dockers' Battalion " scheme. It is certainly 
less objectionable, inasmuch as the workers are not 
subject to military law ; it presents, however, the same 
dangers of blacklegging, and it is actually inferior in 
that apparently membership of a Trade Union is not 
required of the enlisted workman. 

In general, the object of the scheme is to attract 
men who are now working on work other than war 
work. No workman engaged on war contracts is 


accepted. There is a good deal of evidence that 
employers who are making a good thing out of private 
contracts are offering opposition to the enlistment of 
their men. There is even a case in which a man was 
discharged by his employer, presumably as a deterrent 
to others, for offering his services to the Government. 
This is possible, because the Government does not at 
once engage the man, but only takes his name and 
then pursues enquiries to see if he is suitable and can 
be spared from his previous employment. 

The enlisted worker, as we have seen, binds himself 
for six months. There is a further very dangerous 
provision in the Act which applies to all workers on 
munitions work in controlled establishments : 

A person shall not give employment to a workman 
whose last previous employment has been on or in connec- 
tion with munitions work in any establishment of a class to 
which the provisions of this section are applied by order 
of the Minister of Munitions, unless he holds a certificate 
from his last employer that he left work with the consent of 
his employer or a certificate from the munitions tribunal 
that the consent has been unreasonably withheld, or unless 
a period of six weeks, or such other period as may be 
provided by Order of the Minister of Munitions, as respects 
any class of establishment, has elapsed since he left his last 
previous employment. 

This drastic interference with the liberty of the 
subject, though it confers on the employer an almost 
infinite power of bullying his workers, whom he can 
do out of another job if they rebel, seems to have 
passed almost unnoticed. 

Lastly, I come to the question of penalties and 
tribunals. An employer who locks out his men 
contrary to the Act may be fined 5 a day for every 
man locked out, while a workman may be fined 5 a 


day for going on strike contrary to the Act. For 
failure to comply with any regulation in a controlled 
establishment a workman may be fined 3, while other 
offences are punishable by a fine of not more than 50. 
For all these cases, except that of failure to comply 
with regulations in a controlled establishment, a 
special Munitions Court is provided, and all cases under 
the Act are removed from the ordinary courts. 

The enforcement of regulations in controlled estab- 
lishments is entrusted to special Munitions Tribunals. 
These are to consist of an " impartial " person appointed 
by the Minister of Munitions, " sitting with two or 
some other even number of assessors, one-half being 
chosen by the Minister of Munitions from a panel 
constituted by the Minister of Munitions of persons 
representing employers, and the other half being so 
chosen from a panel constituted by the Minister of 
Munitions of persons representing the workmen." 
These tribunals have power to fine, and in the event 
of the fine not being paid, to cause the employer to 
deduct it from wages. Thus the deplorable practice, 
begun by the Insurance Act, of giving the employer 
power to deduct from wages on behalf of the State, is 
carried still farther, and the inferior status of Labour 
is emphasised once more by Act of Parliament. 

Moreover, the whole machinery of discipline under 
the Act is utterly unsatisfactory. As Mr. Duke, a 
Conservative lawyer, pointed out in the debate on the 
second reading, it would have been far better to entrust 
to the Unions themselves the task of looking after their 
own members. As it is, they have gained no sort of 
recognition from the State. The preliminary negotia- 
tions once over, the Unions have been thrust on one 
side. The local Munitions Committees are still left 


wholly without defined function, and the men's side 
of these Committees is given no power on the ques- 
tion of Trade Union rules. Instead, the workers are 
handed over to an " impartial " person, and even the 
representatives they are allowed appear merely as 
assessors before him, and are not elected by the workers, 
but nominated by the Minister of Munitions. 

Such was the inglorious climax reached at the end 
of June by the movement for the organisation of 
Labour. The settlement reached with the passage of 
the Munitions Act is so unsatisfactory, and shows so 
little appreciation of the real problems to be faced, 
that it will inevitably break down, if the workers have 
a spark of life left in them. Probably in a few months' 
time the whole dreary farce will be played over again. 
The Government will make a great parade of taking 
the workers into its confidence ; the workers will fail 
again to use the opportunity when it presents itself. 
Either that will happen, or, if the world of Labour 
remains undisturbed, its calm will mean not efficiency 
but stagnation. 

For this lamentable state of affairs the Government 
is only partly to blame. The Trade Union leaders 
have miserably failed to rise to occasion after occasion. 
On both sides there has been a lamentable dearth of 
imagination. The Government has tried to give the 
Unions as little as possible, when it ought to have 
thrust responsibility and power upon them : the 
Union leaders have shown no sign that they recognise 
their chance of getting at last a foothold in the control 
of industry. Only in independent quarters has there 
been any sign of a saner spirit. The New Age and 
the Herald have pressed for full partnership between 
the State and the Unions, and the same cry has 


been taken up by Radical journals like the Nation and 
the Manchester Guardian, and even by the Conserva- 
tives. The Daily Telegraph has pressed for the 
abolition of profiteering. The Round Table has urged 
the Government to concede rights and responsibilities 
to the Trade Unions. 

In the Unions themselves, the rank and file have 
been given no opportunity of expressing their point 
of view. The negotiations have been conducted, or 
at least controlled, by persons who seem incapable 
of seeing an inch beyond their own noses, and the 
malcontents have not had a chance to make themselves 
heard. Those Labour leaders who have joined the 
Government appear to have lost no time in adopting 
the governing-class point of view. Only a few excep- 
tions have appeared : Mr. Smillie and Mr. Hartshorn, 
on behalf of the miners, have taken up a less subservient 
position, and Mr. Philip Snowden has redeemed many 
past mistakes by the line he has taken over the Muni- 
tions Act. Needless to say, his attempt to be inde- 
pendent at once induced the new Labour jacks in office 
to attempt to throw discredit upon him. 

Practically, then, the outlook could not well be 
more gloomy than it is now ; but there is hope even 
in the gloom. Independent minds are everywhere 
beginning to realise facts which those who are in power 
refuse to see. The failure of the Government and the 
Trade Union leaders is teaching those who think that 
only by granting a responsible share in the control of 
industry to the Trade Unions, and by forcing it upon 
them if need be, can the workers be persuaded to give 
of their best, or production be organised efficiently. 
It is useless to set up Committees without giving them 
power : there can be no true organisation of Labour 



until the workers cease to be treated merely as an 
element in the cost of production, and come to be 
treated as so many human beings, possessed of wills, 
desires, and sensibilities, who must be humoured 
rather than commanded, and given responsibility 
rather than the lash. There seems little chance that 
those who have the power to carry this policy into 
effect will have either the sense or the courage to do so. 
Whatever may happen, it will be seen in the future 
that this was the only hope of a truly national organisa- 
tion of industry. 1 

1 Since this was written there has been further trouble in the 
South Wales coalfield, where the negotiations for a new agreement 
and a new wage-standard reached a complete deadlock, owing to 
the refusal of the owners to meet the men. The question was 
then referred to the Board of Trade ; but the miners refused Mr. 
Runciman's very inadequate offer, and came out on strike. The 
South Wales area was then proclaimed under the Munitions Act ; 
but the miners stood firm, and not only got most of their demands, 
but also succeeded in practically smashing the Act on the first 
occasion on which it was used. No penalties were exacted under 
it, and no attempt was made to apply it to any individual. 



IT is very difficult, but at the same time very necessary, 
for Labour to define its attitude towards the problems 
of women's employment that have arisen out of the 
war. For the most part these problems are not new, 
and, to a limited extent, Labour has had to deal with 
them in time of peace ; but the effect of the war has 
been greatly to increase their magnitude, and to make 
the call for their solution infinitely more urgent. In 
every direction the coming of war has had the effect 
of speeding up the process of industrial change ; it 
has caused tendencies to become far more marked, 
and has turned into actualities what seemed only 
distant possibilities. This is the case more especially 
with regard to women's labour. 

For some time, theoretical discussions of the 
position of women in industry have been claiming 
more and more attention. The feminist movement 
far wider than the suffrage movement and for the 
most part seeing in the vote only a symbol of emancipa- 
tion has its industrial no less than its political side. 
Its claim is essentially for the removal of barriers for 
the right of free entry into any and every sphere of 
activity, irrespective of the difference of sex. " Let 



woman be given the right of entry," demands the 
feminist, " and then let her be judged on the same 
terms as man, by her fitness. If she holds her own, 
her entry is justified : if not, out she goes again, and 
no harm has been done." 

In pursuance of this policy of " free entry," the 
feminists have seized the opportunity which the war 
has afforded them of claiming the right to trades and 
professions which have hitherto been open only to 
men. Moreover, many of them have declared un- 
equivocally that, having achieved an entry, they do 
not intend to be again ousted when the war ends. 
Many of them are set on the permanent conquest for 
woman of new industrial territory. 

It is clear that this opens up difficult problems for 
the male wage-earner, who may well find his job taken, 
or his standard of life threatened, by the competition 
of female labour. He is apt to regard woman much 
as the Australian regards Chinamen, or as the American 
regards East European immigrants, as interlopers, 
whose different standard of life renders them not only 
dangerous, but also unfair, competitors in the labour 
market. And the history of woman in industry gives 
some warrant for this attitude. 

Last, but not least, there is the point of view of the 
community as a whole, which, taking into account the 
points of view of both men and women, has to consider 
what solution of the problem will conduce to the 
greatest good of the mass of the people. In order to 
do this, it has to consider the effect of industrial life on 
the health and character of the sexes, and the im- 
mediate social effect likely to be produced by radical 
changes in the class of labour employed in industry. 

These three points of view all deserve to be heard 


and taken into account. There are, of course, other 
points of view which, although the same claim cannot 
be made for them, are likely to play an important 
part in settling the problem. Chief among these is 
the point of view of the employer, who is seeking 
always to reduce the cost of production, and therefore 
to buy his labour in the cheapest market the cheapest, 
that is, when the efficiency of the labour he buys is 
taken into account. How far, we need to know, are 
the employers likely to contend for the retention of 
women in industry after the war ? 

All these questions can only be answered in the 
most provisional way, and cannot be answered at all 
until we have made a short survey of the facts. Before 
we can know how the position of women in industry 
is going to be affected by the war in the long run, we 
must know roughly how it has been affected so far. 
This it is not easy to discover with any accuracy, and 
I fear the facts given in this chapter are hardly less 
sketchy and incomplete than the conclusions I shall 
attempt to draw. 

As we have seen, the unemployment of the early 
months of the war fell with far greater severity upon 
women than upon men. The net contraction in the 
total number of women employed in industry amounted 
to roughly 190,000 in September, 139,000 in October, 
75,000 in December, and 35,000 in February. More- 
over, during the five weeks ending on April 16, 1915, 
89,577 women and 20,815 girls registered at the Labour 
Exchanges, while only 37,607 vacancies for women and 
12,215 for girls were notified by employers. Though 
women's employment has been growing continually 
less bad, there is still a considerable number of women 
workers unemployed. 


The steps taken to meet this unemployment in the 
early days of the war deserve study. Early in August 
there was set on foot an organisation called Queen 
Mary's Needlework Guild, which was to provide 
comforts for the troops by voluntary labour. Atten- 
tion was at once called to the fact that, unless great 
care was taken, this scheme would only make worse 
the severe unemployment already prevailing among 
women. As a result of these protests the following 
official statement appeared in the papers on August 17 : 

The details of the plan which the Queen has had under 
contemplation for some days to collect money to finance 
schemes of work for women unemployed on account of the 
war will be announced in a day or two. 

It is the wish of Her Majesty that these schemes should 
be devised in consultation with industrial experts and 
representatives of working-class women. 

There has been evident misunderstanding concerning 
the aims of the Queen's Needlework Guild, some people 
feeling alarmed at the possibility that the enlistment of the 
voluntary aid of women workers would tend to restrict the 
employment of other women in dire need of paid work. 
Voluntary aid was meant to supplement and not to supplant 
paid labour, and one of the Queen's very first cares when the 
Guild appeal was decided upon was to avoid the infliction 
of any hardship. 

The matter has been under earnest consideration ever 
since, and the announcement that representatives of work- 
ing women will be called into consultation provides a 
guarantee that everything possible will be done to safe- 
guard the interests of women workers. 

In accordance with this scheme the Queen's Work 
for Women Fund was started, nominally as a part of 
the National Relief Fund, and nominally under the 
control of the National Relief Fund Committee. The 
money was, however, set aside for the special purpose 


of providing work for women, and the control was 
left almost entirely in the hands of the Central Com- 
mittee for Women's Employment, which was appointed 
on August 20. This Committee, of which Lady Crewe 
is Chairman and Miss Mary Macarthur Honorary 
Secretary, consists of fourteen members, including 
five representatives of working women, approved by 
the War Emergency : Workers' National Committee. 

The Committee at once got to work. In the words of 
their own Report, they " realised that it is better that 
workers should be self-maintaining than dependent 
upon relief, even when that relief is given in the form 
of work. . . ." The Committee, in these circumstances, 
considered it to be their duty to use such opportunities 
as were given to them to increase the number of firms 
and workers participating in the supply of Government 
requirements, and for this purpose they created a 
special Contracts Department, under the direction of 
Mr. J. J. Mallon. 

This body did very useful work in inducing the 
War Office to extend its contracts to firms usually 
engaged on other kinds of work, as well as in persuading 
firms to adapt themselves to the changed conditions. 
Very soon it became necessary to extend this side of 
the work, and the Committee itself began to tender for 
contracts. It was found that many dressmaking and 
needlework firms, themselves too small to secure War 
Office contracts, could be helped if the Committee 
itself took up a large contract, and then distributed the 
work among them. The following is the list of the 
chief contracts which the Committee has taken up : 

(a) 20,000 cut out Army grey shirts to be made up. 
(&) As from October, when the above-mentioned con- 
tract expired, 10,000 similar shirts per week. The Com- 


mittee in this case became responsible for the cutting as 
well as the making of the shirts. 

(c) 105,000 flannel body belts for the French and British 

(d) 2,000,000 pairs of Army grey socks. 

With regard to these contracts the Committee 
makes the following statements : 

(1) The work is only undertaken where the ordinary 
trade is fully employed. 

(2) The work is undertaken at trade prices and is self- 
maintaining. Advances made from the National Relief 
Fund in connection with certain contracts are merely 
working capital which at the completion of the contract 
will be returned in full. 

(3) The conditions as to the remuneration of workers 
have been (since October last) those usual in women's 
trades, that is to say, payment is mainly by piece, and the 
limits as to weekly earnings which apply in the Relief 
Workrooms are not observed. 

In the case of the order for shirts, a time rate of 
wages was at first paid, but when the workers had 
gained experience, the piece rates ordinary in the trade 
were substituted. The workers quickly learnt their 
jobs, and, whereas at first 59 workers produced less 
than 800 shirts a week, in January 44 workers were 
already producing 1400, and the average wage of these 
44 exceeded i. At the start the wages paid had only 
slightly exceeded those in the relief workrooms. 

The Committee also did something towards the 
promotion of new trades ; but it would seem that it 
did still more in discouraging mushroom outgrowths 
of the campaign for capturing German sweated in- 

On a larger scale, and more in the public eye, has 
been the Committee's relief work. This has been of 


two chief types : some relief workrooms have been 
organised directly by the Central Committee, while 
others have been under Local Relief Committees. In 
both types of workroom the first necessity was to 
avoid competition with ordinary trade. This was 
realised from the beginning by the Central Committee, 
but not, according to the Committee's own report, 
by local relief committees. The Central Committee 
has therefore had to insist, as a condition of making 
grants, that the goods made shall neither be offered 
for sale, nor distributed gratis to persons possessing 
purchasing power. " Difficulty has been experienced 
in enforcing this principle, chiefly owing to the desire 
of the local committees to make articles for the troops." 1 

Insistence has in all cases been laid on the principle 
that the work provided in the workrooms should be 
educational in character, though it is of course not so 
to the same extent as in the special training centres 
that have been set up especially in London. It seems 
doubtful whether this principle has really been carried 
out effectually in many of the workrooms. 

One of the most vexed questions with which the 
Committee had to deal was that of the wages to be 
paid in the workrooms. A scale was fixed in August, 
in accordance with which there was to be a minimum 
scale of 3d. an hour, and the maximum number of 
hours worked was to be 40 per week. A maximum 
wage per week of los. was also fixed ; but, in view of 
the rise in prices, this was raised to us. 6d. and the 
maximum number of hours to 46 late in March. 

These rates were in some quarters roundly de- 
nounced as sweating, and certain members of the 

1 The goods made have as a rule been distributed to necessitous 
persons, under the direction of the Relief Committees. 


Committee seem to have put up a strong fight against 
them. In defence of its action, the Committee points 
to the women's rates fixed by the various Trade 
Boards, which, they say, " may be taken roughly as 
an indication of the lines below which, in the public 
interest, wages under any circumstances should not 
be allowed to drop." They further point out that 
" the lowest minimum so far determined by a Trade 
Board for a trade of any magnitude has been 3d." 

Certainly, the Committee seems to have fixed the 
lowest wage that it could have done, because " it was 
felt undesirable to fix wages either so high as to attract 
from ordinary employment, or else so low as to fall 
below the barest subsistence level." Perhaps the 
fault lies less with the Committee than with the 
Government and the Trade Boards themselves, which 
have done nothing to raise their minima in view of the 
increased cost of living. 1 Whoever may have been at 
fault it is clear that both the rates paid and the maxi- 
mum were scandalously low, and Dr. Marion Phillips 
and Miss Bondfield were fully justified in their cam- 
paign demanding a rise of a halfpenny an hour. They 
did not, as we saw, apply to the work done by the 
Committee or its sub-contractors for the Government 
on commercial terms. 

In all cases the Factory Acts have been observed, 

1 " In the House of Commons yesterday Mr. W. C. Anderson 
(Labour Member for Attercliffe) asked the President of the Board 
of Trade whether any steps had been taken to bring before the 
various Trade Boards (which fixed legal minima rates of wages at 
from 2|d. to 6d. per hour at a time when the cost of living was at 
least 20 per cent lower than at present) the question of revising 
these rates, affecting virtually 250,000 wage-earners. 

" Mr. Runciman said it was for the workers' representatives on 
the Trade Boards to raise the question of an increase if they con- 
sidered it to be warranted." Daily Citizen, February 24, 1915. 


and the workrooms inspected by the Factory In- 
spectors. Measures have been taken to ensure the 
speediest possible return of the workers to ordinary 
industry, and registration at the Labour Exchanges 
has been insisted upon. " Local committees have, 
however, been advised that no workers should be 
prejudiced by refusal to accept work of an unsuitable 
character or at an inadequate rate of wages." 

The schemes run by local Relief Committees are, 
in the main, on the same lines as those directly under 
the Central Committee. In every case it was insisted 
that the scheme should be controlled by a special 
Women's Employment Sub-Committee, on which 
local women's labour organisations were adequately 
represented. The control of the scheme was then left 
to this sub-committee, which had to make frequent 
and full reports to the Central Committee, as a con- 
dition of the renewal of grants. Central control was 
thus secured. 

On the whole, it seems that the result of these 
schemes has been beneficial. The women have been 
found to adapt themselves readily to new tasks, and a 
great deal of training has been given especially at 
the Training Centres in the various domestic arts. 
The whole report issued by the Central Committee is 
well worthy of study, and contains many interesting 
features into which it is impossible for me to enter. 
Up to January 23 it appears that about 9000 workers 
had passed through the workrooms, 4908 being still 
employed in them at that date. Since then many of 
the rooms have been closed, sometimes too precipi- 
tately, as trade has improved. 

This short survey of relief measures accomplished, 
I come to questions which, instead of receding into 


the limbo of history, are becoming more and more 
acute as the war proceeds. Hitherto, we have been 
dealing with the relief of women thrown out of work 
by the war : we have now to deal with the incursion of 
women into new branches of industry as a result of 
the war. 

Probably many people have still very little idea of 
the extent to which this has already happened. In 
fact, the total number of women who have found their 
way into new trades is now very large, and shows 
every sign of increasing. 

All through the early months of the war this process 
was going on naturally. Women were moving freely 
from industries that were depressed to those that were 
busy, and, in the busy trades, many married women 
and others who had ceased to be employed were re- 
turning to their old occupations. In some cases, 
indeed, transference was found to be impossible : of 
the cotton weavers who went to Yorkshire in search 
of work in the woollen mills, the great majority soon 
returned. Housing was too bad, and wages and 
conditions of employment too unsatisfactory, to retain 
these workers except in one or two centres. In other 
cases, where the skill of the women was highly 
specialised, it was found unprofitable to turn them on 
to other .trades. But, despite these exceptions, on 
the whole women passed very freely from one trade 
to another. 

Nevertheless, there remained in March a consider- 
able surplus of unemployed women. At this moment 
the Government, acting under various influences, 
launched a scheme of national registration, and invited 
all women who were " prepared, if needed, to accept 
paid work of any kind industrial, agricultural, 


clerical, etc. to enter themselves upon the Register 
of Women for War Service " at the Labour Exchanges. 
" The object," it was said, " is to find out what reserve 
force of women's labour, trained or untrained, can be 
made available if required." Within a fortnight 
33,000 women enrolled their names upon this register. 1 
The Government's action did not pass entirely 
without protest. The following resolution was at 
once passed by the Workers' National Committee : 

That this Workers' National Committee has had under 
serious consideration the circular " War Service for Women " 
issued by the Board of Trade. The Committee points out 
that there are still 60,000 men and boys and 40,000 women 
and girls on the live register of the Labour Exchanges for 
whom the Board of Trade has so far failed to find situations 
or provide training, whilst many thousands more are work- 
ing short time. It further points out that the object of the 
circular appears to be specially directed to obtain women's 
labour in agriculture, and that absolutely no safeguards are 
proposed to guarantee good conditions and fair wages. The 
Committee is strongly of opinion that in drafting women 
into any industries care must be taken to prevent the stereo- 
typing of bad conditions and low wages or to endanger 
standard conditions where they obtain ; that this should 
be secured by a tribunal representative of the organised 
wage-earners men and women ; and that further efforts 
should be made to find situations for those persons now on 
the register before taking steps to bring in fresh supplies of 
female labour. 

This resolution was largely prompted by the belief 
that the Farmers' Union was behind the War Service 
scheme, and was trying to get cheap labour instead of 
raising the wages of men on the land. 

1 In all about 87,000 women registered. At the end of June, 
employment had only been found for 2000 of them, though some 
others, who were also registered at the Labour Exchanges, had found 
jobs for themselves. 


Even more significant is the manifesto issued by 
the Women's Freedom League in reply to the Govern- 
ment scheme. 

The Women's Freedom League are glad to note the tardy 
recognition by the Government of the value of women's 
work brought before the country in their scheme of war 
service for women. We demand from the Government, 
however, certain guarantees. 

Firstly, that no trained woman employed in men's work 
be given less pay than that given to men. 

Secondly, that some consideration be given when the 
war is over to the women who during the war have carried 
on this necessary work. 

Thirdly, that in case of training being required proper 
maintenance be given to the woman or girl while that 
training is going on. 

Recognising that the Government's scheme offers a 
splendid opportunity for raising the status of women in 
industry, we urge that every woman should now resolutely 
refuse to undertake any branch of work except for equal 
wages with men. By accepting less than this women 
would be showing themselves disloyal to one another, 
and to the men who are serving their country in the field. 
These men should certainly be safeguarded on their return 
from any undercutting by women. 

Finally, seeing that the Government are now making 
a direct appeal to women to come forward and help in the 
defence of their country, and that fresh responsibilities 
are being thrust upon them thousands through the loss 
of their husband being left to perform the duties of both 
father and mother we feel that this is an opportune 
moment for the Government to guarantee that before they 
leave office they will bring before the House of Commons 
a measure for the political enfranchisement of women. 

We urge all suffragists to support us in this demand 

At almost the same time the Treasury Conference 


between the Government and the Unions arrived at 
the first agreement limiting Trade Union rules, and 
admitting women to trades from which they had 
previously been excluded. In that agreement the 
following provision occurred : 

The relaxation of existing demarcation restrictions or 
admission of semi-skilled or female labour shall not affect 
adversely the rates customarily paid for the job. 

This, of course, applied only in the case of Govern- 
ment work under the agreement. Miss Sylvia Pank- 
hurst wrote to ask for further light on the subject, 
and received from Mr. Lloyd George this reply : 

March 26, 1915. 

DEAR Miss PANKHURST The words which you quote 
would guarantee that women undertaking the work of 
men would get the same piece-rates as men were receiving 
before the date of this agreement. That, of course, means 
that if the women turn out the same quantity of work as 
men employed on the same job, they will receive exactly 
the same pay. Yours sincerely, 

(Signed) D. LLOYD GEORGE. 

This answer was so obviously inadequate that Miss 
Pankhurst at once wrote again. On the point raised 
in this second letter the Government seems so far to 
have given no guarantee : 1 

DEAR MR. LLOYD GEORGE Many thanks for your 
letter with its valuable explanation that women are to 
receive the " same piece-work rates as men were receiving 
before the date of this agreement." I conclude that the 
women will also receive any war bonus and increase of 

1 Moreover, early in June the Daily Telegraph printed what 
purported to be a private Treasury circular laying down for women 
clerks and typists, taken on by the Government to fill vacancies 
caused by enlistment, rates of wages far below those paid to male 


wages as a result of the war, which would have been paid 
had men been employed. It is important to know also, 
whether the same time rates are to apply in the case of 
women as those which were paid to men ; because if this 
were not the case, employers might merely engage women 
to work on time rates to avoid paying the standard rate 
to men. 

I hope that you will be able to give me a definite answer 
on this point, as you will understand how anxious women 
are in regard to the matter. 

This correspondence, and the manifesto of the 
Women's Freedom League, bring us to the heart of 
the question. How is the introduction of women's 
labour likely to affect standard rates ? And how far 
are the women who come in under the National 
Register, or any other scheme, likely to act, willingly 
or unwillingly, the part of blacklegs ? 

We can best estimate the chances by running 
through in turn the chief industries in which women's 
labour has been, or is likely to be, largely introduced 
as a result of the war. I omit agriculture, of which 
I shall have to speak separately in the next chapter. 

It will be well to begin with the most obvious case 
that of clerical labour. Typing, has, of course, been 
a women's trade for some time, and the number of 
women clerks has been growing steadily. The effect 
of the war has been very greatly to speed up this 
process, and especially to increase the small number 
of women clerks in commercial houses. On the rail- 
ways, the problem of women clerks was already rousing 
opposition in the Railway Clerks' Association long 
before the war, the men complaining that the women 
could only take day work, and that thereby their own 
spells of night duty were made more frequent. Here, 
too, the effect of the war has been to speed up a process 


that had already begun. Women booking-clerks are 
still rare ; but women are becoming common in the 
head offices of the Companies. The number of women 
insurance clerks has also increased. 

But in one of the most important branches of 
clerical work, the Civil Service, there has been as yet 
hardly any change. The Civil Service Commission 
recommended greater employment of women ; but, 
despite protests, no steps have been taken to put this 
into effect. In the postal service alone, which already 
employed a very large number of women before the 
war, women's labour has extended into new grades. 

Lastly, women have at last got a foothold in the 
banks, though not yet to any great extent. In this 
case, the change seems likely to be permanent : it 
is being accompanied by a process of regrading, which 
separates off some of the simple and mechanical work 
and entrusts this to women paid at a lower rate than 
the old bank clerk, whose duties thus become more 
specialised. We shall meet this problem of regrading 
more than once again in our survey of the various 

One of the biggest openings for women has been 
found in the shops. Many of the big provision houses 
have taken on women assistants for the first time, and 
the great stores, such as Whiteley's and Harrod's, have 
increased the proportion of women to men. Women 
have been in many cases engaged as doorkeepers and 
lift-attendants. Here, again, the development seems 
likely to be to a great extent permanent, largely because 
it is doubtful whether the men will desire to return 
to their old jobs, but also because women's labour is 
cheaper. In this connection, it should be noticed that 
the National Amalgamated Union of Shop Assistants, 



Warehousemen, and Clerks, which includes over 20,000 
women among its 90,000 members, refused at its 
Annual Conference this year (1915) to demand equal 
pay for men and women. In practice, it is, I believe, 
raising no objection to the employment of women 
where they are paid four-fifths of the men's salary. 
The justification given for the difference is that duties 
are often to some extent rearranged so that the heavier 
work falls on the men ; but it does not appear that the 
men have been given increases to compensate them 
for this. 

Waitresses, too, are being taken on in many hotels 
and restaurants in which men used to be employed. 
The permanency of this development probably depends 
largely on the extent to which foreign waiters return 
at the end of the war. The Waiters' Union, far from 
raising objection to the employment of women, is 
actually training them specially for the work. 

So far we have been dealing with occupations which 
are only in the wider sense of the word industrial. 
These occupations probably still account for a very 
large proportion of the women who have taken employ- 
ment for the first time. 

In industry proper, by far the most important 
problems are those connected with engineering and 
the metal trades. In engineering proper practically 
no women were employed at the beginning of the war. 
Right at the start, attempts were made to introduce 
them as minders of the simpler machines ; but for the 
most part these attempts were successfully resisted by 
the workers. Already, however, before the Treasury 
Agreement, a certain number of women had found 
their way in, and since then the numbers have in- 
creased. Even now, women are mainly confined to 


subsidiary branches of engineering, such as the manu- 
facture of shells, in which they are largely employed 
as fillers. The chief change is that they have found 
their way into the engineering workshops, and are now 
working together with the male operatives, even if 
they are engaged in different processes. This has 
already given rise to the proposal that women should 
be admitted to the Amalgamated Society of Engineers : 
this suggestion, which is under discussion as I write, 
is almost certain to be rejected. 

It is important to remember how large a proportion 
of the women employed in engineering works are 
engaged in trades that minister directly to the war, 
and will be at any rate greatly reduced when it ends. 
This fact seems likely to make it more difficult for the 
women to hold permanently the ground they have 
gained in the present emergency. At the same time, 
many women, having been trained to use the simpler 
machines for one process, might easily pass on to 
another, and therefore difficulties between them and 
the men seem almost certain to arise. In engineering 
the incursion of women is greatest in the Manchester 
and Newcastle districts, and has had less effect in 

In the smaller metal trades women have made much 
greater headway, especially in the Birmingham district. 
Here women have long been employed to a considerable 
extent ; but the war has very greatly increased their 
number. Many women have passed from the depressed 
jewellery trade to trades ministering to the needs of 
the army and navy. 

In the woollen industry the effect of the war has 
been not so much to open new trades to women as to 
call back to work married women and others who had 


ceased to be employed. It is improbable that the 
majority of these, except in so far as they are or become 
widows, will desire to remain after the war. 

In the cotton industry, which has been depressed, 
there has been as yet little change ; but the agitation 
for the reintroduction of women into the spinning 
processes is being renewed. Lancashire has for some 
time suffered from a shortage of piecers a shortage 
which is natural in view of the lowness of piecers' wages 
and of the difficulty of becoming a spinner. The war 
has caused a larger proportion of piecers than of 
spinners to enlist, and has thus made the shortage 
worse. The Spinners' Amalgamation, however, will 
certainly resist any attempt to reintroduce women, 
who are now only employed as piecers in a few mills, 
mostly near Manchester. 

In the clothing industry the war has again recalled 
retired workers, and many women have passed from 
depressed trades to clothing work. It seems probable 
that the necessary return of many of these women 
to their old occupations will be difficult, as they may 
well have lost some of their old skill. 

It is impossible to mention in detail all the smaller 
industries in which women's labour has been affected 
by the war. I pass therefore to the last great group 
the transport industries. 

On the railways, though the number of women 
employed is still small, the change is highly significant, 
and is certain to have very great consequences. I have 
already spoken of the railway clerical service ; but 
the introduction of women is by no means confined to 
this type of work. Several big companies have taken 
on women as carriage-cleaners, and here it seems certain 
that their cheapness will make them a permanency. 


More important still is the coming of women ticket- 
collectors on some of the great lines. Here, too, the 
work is easily performed by women, and it seems 
probable that the number will be greatly increased. 
Yet a further development is seen in the new Maida 
Vale Underground station, which is staffed entirely 
by women, all of whom are apparently being paid 
lower wages than men receive for the same work. It 
is necessary to point out that the conditions on the 
Underground, which is without goods traffic and 
where there is practically no porterage, are entirely 
different from those on other lines. The development 
is therefore not so startling as it sounds ; but it is 
startling enough to hear the demand put forward 
that the whole Underground service should be staffed 
by women, including engine -driving. It is pointed 
out that there are plenty of women motor-drivers, and 
that Underground motormen need no very special 
skill. Though no such far-reaching changes are 
probable yet awhile, the Companies have now de- 
finitely announced their intention to employ women 
permanently in many grades. 

The policy of the National Union of Railwaymen 
was defined in June by the officials at a demonstra- 
tion preceding the Annual Meeting of the Union. 
The officials appreciated the fact that in some grades 
women's labour had come to stop, and declared that 
the Union would insist on the same rates being paid 
to women as to men. The Annual Meeting has 
since admitted women to the Union ; but, in fact, 
where women have been taken on, it seems that 
they are everywhere being paid lower rates than 
men, even when they are working in the grades for 
which the Conciliation Boards have fixed rates of 


wages, and although these rates are not explicitly 
confined to men. 

Perhaps the problem of which most has been heard 
during the war is that of women tram-conductors. 
The proposal to employ women as conductors was 
first mooted by the Edinburgh Tramway Company 
in February ; but on this occasion the male workers 
successfully resisted the innovation. Subsequently 
the proposal was made in many centres, including 
Glasgow, London, Liverpool, Newcastle, Salford, and 
Brighton. In Glasgow 400 women have been taken 
on, and smaller numbers are at work at Salford and 
Brighton. At the latter centre the women are being 
paid only 4^d. an hour. 

An important point is the attitude of the two 
Unions catering for tramway workers. Mr. A. Smith, 
President of the London and Provincial Licensed 
Vehicle Workers' Union, has spoken strongly against 
the employment of women in London. " No more 
uncongenial work," he said, " or work for which she 
is more unfitted, could be given to a woman." The 
London tramwaymen are themselves strongly against 
the proposal, and at a large meeting demanded per- 
mission to withdraw their labour if the suggestion 
was pressed. In London, however, there seems no 
likelihood of its adoption. 

The other Union, the Amalgamated Association of 
Tramway and Vehicle Workers, has also clearly defined 
its position, and in doing so has rejected the advice 
of its Executive. When the proposal was first mooted 
for Lancashire, Alderman Jackson, the General Secre- 
tary of the Union, was asked his opinion. 

" I don't see," he said, " how we, as a union, can raise 
any logical objection to women earning their living as 


tram-conductors during the period of the war. But there 
must be two safeguards. We will insist that women 
employed as tram-guards shall receive precisely the same 
pay as men. In the second place, we make a condition 
that after the war the women must be removed in favour 
of the men whose places they have taken. These conditions 
being observed, I don't see any objection to women working 
in that capacity if they think they can do the work. 

" If such a thing came about, the Union would certainly 
accept the women as members." 

Subsequently the question came up for discussion 
at the Annual Conference of the Union. The Executive 
proposed that women's labour should not be opposed, 
but that safeguards on the lines suggested by Alderman 
Jackson should be exacted. The Conference, however, 
passed a resolution emphatically protesting against 
the employment of women on any terms. 

The foregoing is a brief survey of the facts and 
tendencies of women's employment as it has been 
affected by the war. There are, doubtless, many 
important omissions which an exacter knowledge 
would supply. But, inadequate and scattered as they 
are, these facts form a basis for a certain amount of 

Between the Census of 1901 and that of 1911 the 
proportion of women to men in all forms of employ- 
ment hardly changed. There was a slight increase 
in the proportion of women in the professions, and 
perhaps a very slight decrease in industry proper. 
The only change that was at all marked was in age, 
the proportion of young women to older women having 
become very much higher. This makes it clear that 
a greater number of unmarried women were entering 
industry, but that the average duration of industrial 
employment was shorter, and that married women 


were remaining in industry less than formerly. Hence, 
to some extent, the very large reserve of retired women 
workers that was found to be available in certain 
cases, especially in the woollen industry. 

The fact that married women, apart from the pro- 
fessions, show a decreasing desire to remain in employ- 
ment makes the industrial problem caused by women's 
labour in one respect simpler and in another more 
difficult. It means, on the one hand, that, if trade is 
normal, a large proportion of the women who take 
up work in the present emergency will not desire to 
remain in industry, and therefore will not compete 
with male labour after the war. On the other hand, 
it means that women's labour will be difficult to 
organise. It is a well-known fact that one of the 
things that make it difficult to build up a strong Trade 
Union movement among women is that so often women 
do not expect to be all their life wage-earners, and 
therefore take a more perfunctory interest than men 
in the conditions under which they are employed. 
The shortness of the working life will clearly intensify 
this evil, which makes especially hard the organisation 
of women's emergency labour. 

Nevertheless, the path of organisation must clearly 
be pursued. Even if a large proportion of the women 
who are now finding employment do not remain in 
industry, enough will assuredly remain seriously to 
menace existing conditions and standard rates, unless 
great efforts are made to organise them. The sugges- 
tion was made in the Federationist that women em- 
ployed as war workers should be given a war Trade 
Union ticket. In default of some such scheme the 
women should join the Union appropriate to their 
trade on the ordinary terms, and, where necessary, 


the ranks of the Unions should be opened to them 
on the same terms as they are now open to men. 
It is highly undesirable, in view of the possibility 
of future trouble, that women should be organised 
in separate Unions of their own. Where this is per- 
force the case, there ought at least to be the closest 
possible co-operation with the men's Unions. 

This point of view was put forward very clearly 
at a National Conference of Trade Unions with women 
members and other women's Labour bodies, which 
was called together on April 17 by the Workers' 
National Committee. Miss Macarthur, who presided, 
criticised very strongly the Government's National 
Register of Women, and also those women's organisa- 
tions which had accepted it without demanding safe- 
guards. In view of the continued unemployment of 
many working women, she regarded the Register as 
unnecessary and dangerous. The chief resolution, 
which was proposed by Miss Margaret Bondfield, was 
as follows : 

That this Conference, representing the women's trade 
union, Labour, Socialist, Co-operative, suffrage, and 
kindred organisations, declares that as it is imperative in 
the interests of the highest patriotism that no emergency 
action should be allowed unnecessarily to depress the 
standard of living of the workers or the standard of working 
conditions, adequate safeguards must be laid down for 
any necessary transference or substitution of labour, and 
it therefore urges : 

(a) That all women who register for war service should 
immediately join the appropriate trade union for which 
they are volunteering service ; and that membership of 
such organisation should be the condition of employment 
for war service ; 

(b) That where a woman is doing the same work as 


a man she should receive the same rate of pay, and that 
the principle of equal pay for equal work should be rigidly 
maintained ; 

(c) That in no case should any woman be drafted from 
the war register to employment at less than an adequate 
living wage, and that the stereotyping of sweated condi- 
tions must at all costs be avoided ; 

(d) That adequate training with maintenance should 
be provided for suitable women whom it is proposed to 
place in employment under the foregoing conditions, and 
that in choosing candidates for such training preference 
should be given, where suitability is equal, to the normal 
woman wage-earner now unemployed ; 

(e) That in any readjustment of staffs which may have 
to be effected after the war priority of employment shall 
be given to workmen whose places have been filled by 

(/) That the women who are displaced in this way 
shall be guaranteed employment. 

This very fair-minded resolution represents the 
considered view of the women's Labour movement. 
It demands equal pay for equal work (a demand which 
needs to be supplemented by Miss Sylvia Pankhurst's 
demand for equal time-rates as well as equal piece- 
rates) ; it claims that all women taken on during the 
war should join the appropriate Trade Union ; and it 
frankly recognises that, where women take men's 
places during the war, the men have a full right to 
reinstatement when they return. 

No number of resolutions, however, will make the 
problem simple. Advocates of equal pay for equal 
work are at once met by the fact that, as often as not, 
the taking-on of women involves a redistribution of 
duties, so that after the change neither the man nor 
the woman is doing exactly the work the man was 
doing before. The problem in these cases is essentially 


the same as that of adjusting standard rates to changed 
methods of production in ordinary times, and the 
difficulties to which such adjustment has again and 
again given rise do not lead to confidence that the 
present problem will be easily solved. The acceptance 
of four-fifths of the male rate of wages as a satisfactory 
standard by the Shop Assistants' Union is a rough 
and ready attempt to deal with the difficulty. Clearly 
the solution will be infinitely more difficult to find if 
men and women are not in the same Unions. 

A second reflection which will inevitably occur to 
the male wage-earner is that even if, for the period of 
the war, women workers secure approximately equal 
rates of payment a very big " if " this gives no 
guarantee that equal rates will be maintained after 
the war. As women find themselves displaced by the 
men who return, will they not begin to compete in the 
labour market by accepting lower wages ? If they do, 
no reasonable person doubts that the employers will 
buy Labour in the cheapest market. How far such 
undercutting takes place will clearly depend in the 
main on the extent to which the Trade Unions succeed 
in organising women's labour during the war. This, 
again, will depend mainly on how hard they try to 
organise it. To this question I shall have to return 
in my final chapter. 

I cannot, however, end the present chapter without 
a few more general remarks. The question whether 
it is desirable that women should be employed in 
industry at all is, to say the least of it, somewhat 
academic. They are firmly established in industry, 
and are almost as much bound to it by the bondage 
of wage-slavery as the male wage-earner. Women's 
place in industry will in the long run be decided mainly 


by women themselves ; if they desire to remain in 
industry no one can say them nay ; if they desire 
to leave industry they will do so as soon as an alterna- 
tive method of economic independence is offered them. 
Till then they cannot leave, even if they would. 

This necessity does not make them any the less 
dangerous competitors. Though the proportion is 
probably growing less, a very large number of em- 
ployed women are only partially dependent on the 
wages they receive, and the numbers in this position 
are augmented at the moment by separation allow- 
ances, and will be permanently augmented by widows 
in receipt of inadequate pensions from the Government. 
How far, it is often asked, does this make them more 
dangerous to the maintenance of standard rates ? 

The question hardly admits of a simple answer. 
The girl who lives at home and only desires to earn her 
pocket-money is undoubtedly often willing to accept 
scandalously low rates, and so drags down the whole 
standard of remuneration in certain trades and districts ; 
but it is at least arguable that the woman who possesses 
a small income of her own has a keener sense of her 
rights than others, and is more inclined to stand out 
for reasonable wages. The pensioners, of whose com- 
petition some Labour leaders are so fearful, surely 
belong in the main to the latter class. 

Ultimately, the position of women in industry will 
depend on their fitness for industrial life. This, how- 
ever, is not the governing principle in the opening of 
new trades to women during the present emergency. 
Much work is being done by women to-day for which 
they are eminently unfitted, and probably more of 
such work will be done by them in the near future. 
The problem is very real, and the menace to Trade 


Union standards and conditions very real also. Prob- 
ably there is no adequate solution ; but clearly the 
danger can be reduced to the most manageable dimen- 
sions by getting the women into the Trade Union 
movement. If this is not done while the war lasts, 
men and women alike will suffer for it on the declaration 
of peace. 



MEN and women are, at least in great measure, re- 
sponsible for looking after their own industrial life, 
and industrial action and organisation afford the 
remedy for most of the evils which beset their working 
lives. Even where the State intervenes in industry, 
we have given reason for holding that it should, 
wherever it can, work through the appropriate in- 
dustrial organisations. The child, however, stands in 
quite a different position from the adult, and it is 
clearly for the State to lay down the terms upon which 
he or she shall be allowed to enter the labour market. 
For here the question is primarily not industrial, but 

Our national system of education was bad enough 
before the war began ; but advantage has been taken 
of the war to make it worse. The existence of half 
time has long thwarted the endeavours of those who 
believe in education, and exemptions from school 
attendance were, before the war, given on ridiculously 
easy terms. Yet the opportunity has been used to 
secure yet further relaxations and exemptions, so that 
an even greater number of children than before has 
been sent into the labour market before the ridiculously 



early school-leaving age to which we still cling. It 
is important that the motives behind this policy, and 
the dangers attending it, should be widely realised. 

Before the war, there were already a quarter of a 
million children of school age exempted for employ- 
ment in various occupations. About 34,000 children 
between twelve and thirteen years of age were em- 
ployed as half-timers under the Factory Acts. About 
60,000, aged thirteen, were in full-time employment. 
About 9000 children under thirteen years old were 
employed in agricultural districts ; while about 
170,000 of school age were in other forms of full-time 
employment. In addition to this quarter of a million, 
another 300,000, while in full-time attendance at school, 
were employed out of school hours. 

The total number of children specially exempted 
from school attendance during the war seems, in 
comparison with these figures, quite small : up to 
the end of January it amounted to only 1591. Be- 
tween February and April there were 3811 further 
exemptions for agricultural employment alone. Never- 
theless the new departures are of great importance, 
since unless care is taken, they may well be used as 
precedents after the war. 

Industrial employment in the narrower sense 
accounts for but few exemptions. The great majority 
have been made in order to allow of the increased 
employment of children in agriculture. Thus, while 
9000 children under thirteen were employed in agri- 
cultural districts before the war, 3811 were specially 
released for rural work between February and April 
1915. The full figures, showing the special exemptions 
granted both in industry and in agriculture during 
those five months, are set out in the following tables 


taken from the Board of Education White Papers on 
School Attendance and Employment. 

SEPTEMBER i, 1914, TO JANUARY 31, 1915, owing to circumstances 
connected with the war : 


Number of Chil- 

dren normally 
liable to attend 
School who have 
been allowed to 
leave School and 
enter Employ- 

Number of 
Children who 
have entered 

Number of 
Children who 
have entered 
Factory or 

Number of 
Children who 
have entered 
other Employ- 










Between n and 12 

years of age 



Between 12 and 13 

years of age 







Between 13 and 14 

years of age 









Total . 







1 20 



Number of Chil- 

dren normally 
liable to attend 
School who have 
been allowed to 
leave School and 
enter Employ- 

Number of 
Children who 
have entered 

Number of 
Children who 
have entered 
Factory or 

Number of 
Children who 
have entered 
other Employ- 










Between 1 1 ami 12 

Between 12 and 13 

years of age 






Between 13 and 14 

years of age . 








Total . . . 

540 2 



9 1 


1 80 


1 The discrepancy of one is accounted for by Berkshire, who furnished no particulars as 
to the age of one child exempted. 

2 The discrepancy is accounted for by the fact that Cardiff furnished no information 
as to the nature of the employment of 263 boys and 59 girls, while Middlesborough 
furnished no information as to the nature of the employment of 4 girls. 


Thus, in all, over 2000 boys and nearly 300 girls of 
school age had been specially exempted from school 
attendance by the end of January that is to say, 
before the second agitation for wholesale exemption 
set in. The great majority of the boys entered agri- 
cultural employment. By the end of April, as we have 
seen, the number had reached over 5000 for agriculture 

It is not at first sight apparent why farmers should 
have secured this preferential treatment. Scarcity of 
labour, we are told, prevails in industry as well as in 
agriculture. The answer seems to be, in fact, not that 
the farmers' need is great, but that they got in first. 

The demand that children should be released from 
school for farm work at an even earlier age than the 
regulations permit is not new. The farmers, as a 
class, have never believed in education, and have 
always sought to secure a plentiful supply of boy 
labour. This is partly because boy labour is cheap, 
but also because, if boys are put on the land early, 
they are less likely to get " fantastical notions " into 
their heads, and so to become discontented with the 
disgraceful conditions of rural labour, and emigrate or 
migrate to the towns. 

With the coming of the war, the farmers saw their 
opportunity, and lost no time in availing themselves 
of it. Applications were at once made, on the plea 
of scarcity of labour, for the granting of exemptions 
to boys. These applications were made to the local 
Education authorities, and it became necessary for 
the Government and the Board of Education to define 
their attitude when local authorities began to write 
to headquarters for permission to grant exemptions. 

The Government's policy was defined in answers 



to questions in the House of Commons during August 
1914. The following summary is taken from a report 
presented by Miss Susan Lawrence to the Workers' 
National Committee : 

On August 25 Mr. Charles Bathurst asked Mr. Asquith 
whether the Government would enable boys over eleven to 
assist farmers during the autumn and winter. Mr. Asquith 
replied, " It would appear the matter is well within the 
discretion of the local authorities, who have already had 
their attention called to it by the Board of Education." 

On August 31 Mr. Pease made a more compromising 
answer to a question by Sir F. Flannery, who asked that 
the Board of Education would issue a notice that boys 
who were temporarily engaged in field work would be 
excused from attendance and both their parents and 
themselves relieved from penalties. Mr. Pease answered 
that the Board could not do this, but that " that matter 
is one which, I think, can safely be left to the discretion 
of local education authorities and magistrates, with whom 
the enforcement of the law for school attendance rests." 

Though these relaxations were probably intended 
by the Government to apply only in extreme cases 
and for a limited period of unusual pressure during 
the harvest season, they were the signal for a national 
campaign by the farming interest, which prevailed 
upon many County Councils to grant them the use 
of child labour. Between September 1914 and 
January 1915 West Sussex released 186 children, 
Huntingdonshire 168, Somerset 158, Gloucestershire 
125, Bedfordshire 112, West Suffolk 88, Yorkshire 
(East Riding) 83, Wiltshire 63, and the Soke of Peter- 
borough 58. Many other County Councils released 
smaller numbers. These figures are for agricultural 
employment alone, but in twelve out of the thirty 
counties for which the Board of Education possesses 


figures the exemptions were not confined to agriculture. 
In the aggregate, however, 85 per cent of those ex- 
empted in these areas took up agricultural employment. 1 
In most cases the exemptions were not given for any 
definite period, and the farmers therefore continued 
to use child labour when the period of pressure was 
passed. Nor do any satisfactory conditions with 
regard to wages seem to have been imposed. Accord- 
ing to the Board of Education, " the wages vary 
below a maximum of 73. a week," and " the following 
reply given by one county may be regarded as fairly 
typical " : 

2 at 6s., i at 53. 6d., 9 at 55., 5 at 45. 6d., 6 at 45., i at 
35. and meals, i at 2s. and meals, i lodged and boarded 
no pay. 3 at nil (working for parents). 

It is extremely significant that in all cases the 
worst offenders are those counties in which rural wages 
are lowest. The North of England provides hardly 
any exemptions : the underpaid South is the first to 
adopt the expedient of still cheaper labour. 

The agitation against child labour took some time 
to gather force, and did not become important till the 

1 Between February and April, 3811 further exemptions were 
granted. The counties which offended most during this period 
were the following. Of the old offenders West Sussex gave 148 
further exemptions, Huntingdonshire 73, Somerset 156, Gloucester- 
shire 106, Bedfordshire 203, West Suffolk 64, Yorkshire (East 
Riding) 167, Wiltshire 157, and the Soke of Peterborough 48. New 
offenders, or counties which had previously granted few exemptions, 
were in some cases even worse : Kent released 507, Worcestershire 
210, Hertfordshire 177, Essex 132, Notts 125, Oxfordshire 118, 
Hampshire 109, Warwickshire 108, Cheshire 99, Northants 94, 
East Suffolk 87, and Anglesey 78. Some of these exemptions may 
be renewals of old exemptions, in the cases in which these were 
originally granted for a limited period. Only in one case has 
much use been made of the special powers of exemption under 
Robson's Act 1899. This is Holland (Lincolnshire), which has 
exempted 63 children in this way. 


Workers' National Committee took the matter up in 
earnest in January. About the same time there 
began a renewed agitation on the part of the farmers 
for still greater relaxations. 1 They contended that 
enlistment had caused such scarcity of labour that 
they could not carry on their work unless children 
were released in even greater numbers. On February 4 
the matter was again raised in question time in the 
House of Commons. 

Mr. PEASE said that since the outbreak of war the Board 
had been in correspondence with a number of local educa- 
tion authorities on the subject of the employment of 
children who would not in normal circumstances be exempt 
from school attendance. He had no power to suspend 
or to authorise local education authorities to suspend the 
operation of their by-laws, and consequently an authority 
when considering the question of enforcing its by-laws, 
had no occasion to apply to him for sanction, though in 
some cases they might have done so under a mistaken 
impression. The industry in which the employment of 
children was contemplated was in most cases agriculture, 
in one case the metal industry, and in some cases it was 
not specified. 

Mr. PETO asked the right honourable gentleman whether 
he would take steps to secure the exemption from school 
attendance during the currency of the war in all rural 
areas of all boys over the age of twelve years who could 
show that they can obtain agricultural employment. 

Mr. PEASE It is for the local education authority, in 
the first instance, to consider whether in any particular 
case there is a reasonable excuse for non-attendance at 

1 The farmers also demanded that grants should continue to 
be paid to local authorities in respect of children exempted from 
school attendance. This, which would have meant that, instead 
of losing, the local authority would gain money on every child it 
exempted, was wisely refused by Mr. Pease, on behalf of the Govern- 
ment, in reply to a question in the House on February 10. 


school, and whether proceedings should be instituted to 
enforce compliance with the by-laws. I have no ground 
for supposing that the duty of enforcing their own by-laws 
is harshly or inconsiderately discharged by local education 
authorities, but in my own opinion no case has been made 
out or could be made out for the wholesale exemption of 
boys over twelve in rural areas, which is suggested by the 
honourable member. Such a course would, moreover, 
require legislation, which the Government do not propose 
to introduce. 

This answer, though it showed that the Government 
did not intend legislation, by no means satisfied the 
opponents of child labour. In effect, it left the matter 
in the hands of the County Councils, many of which 
are dominated by the farming interest. In Worcester- 
shire, for instance, the Education Committee refused 
to grant exemptions, but was overruled by the full 
County Council. 

Was the action of the Board of Education in leaving 
matters to the local authorities sound ? And were 
the local authorities within their rights in following 
the Prime Minister's advice and refraining from 
prosecutions ? These points were raised in a letter 
sent to the Press by Mr. A. J. Mundella, of the National 
Education Association, on February 8. This letter is 
worth quoting in part : 

It is evident that the farmers and the county councils 
are being misled by the Board of Education as regards 
the employment of children. Such letters of the Board 
as are published are more or less in the following words : 
" The Board have no power to give directions overriding 
the law with regard to school attendance and the employ- 
ment of children, but the local authority is under no 
obligation to take proceedings for non-attendance if they 
are satisfied that there is a reasonable excuse for non- 
attendance " ; and they generally go on to say that they 


are sure the local authority will use this " reasonable 
excuse " provision with great discretion. There they 
leave the matter, and the farmers at once claim to stretch 
this elastic " reasonable excuse " provision so as to cover 
every child over eleven or twelve years of age whom they 
want to employ. 

May I point out that the Board of Education tell only 
half the story ? It is true that the law says " unless 
there is some reasonable excuse " (section 74, 1870) with 
regard to non-attendance at school, but there is no such 
proviso with regard to employment. School and work 
are two entirely separate things ; and because the Act 
of Parliament recognises unspecified excuses for a child's 
absence from school (from toothache downwards), it does 
not recognise such excuses as justifying the truant school- 
boy being employed for wages whilst so absent. 

The law as to employment is clear and definite, with 
no elastic loopholes ; and any person who employs any 
child under fourteen before that child has reached the 
standard of attendance or attainment definitely prescribed 
by law is liable on summary conviction to a penalty not 
exceeding 405. (section 6, 1876). It is the duty of the 
local authority to prosecute ; and the statute makes no 
provision for an allegation by the defendant employer of 
a " reasonable excuse " for his offence. And if the local 
authority fail to fulfil their duty " the Board of Education 
may, after holding a local enquiry, make such order as 
they think necessary or proper for the purpose of com- 
pelling the authority to fulfil their duty " (section 16 of 
1902) ; and the statute says nothing about " reasonable 
excuses " absolving the Board of Education from carrying 
out the law. 

It is, then, very doubtful whether the special ex- 
emptions were legal, but the farmers clearly placed 
sufficient reliance in the co-operation of the local 
authorities to chance this. At the Annual Meeting 
of the National Farmers' Union on February 24 
" members were advised to employ suitable boys over 


twelve on farms, with the consent of the parents, 
the prevailing impression being that rural education 
authorities would not initiate prosecutions." 

Before this, on February n, a deputation from 
the Workers' National Committee attended on the 
President of the Board of Education to discuss the 
question. A representative of the National Union 
of Teachers then said that his Union had acquiesced 
in the employment of children withdrawn from school 
only on the understanding that it was a temporary 
measure for the harvest period. The Secretary of the 
Agricultural Labourers' Union contended that there 
was no actual shortage of workers, but that the wages 
were so poor that men were diverted to other occupa- 
tions. Mr. Pease's reply was in the nature of an 
excuse. He admitted that the replies given by himself 
and the Prime Minister " had given encouragement 
to farmers to believe that the Government would look 
rather easily on any exemptions of the children from 
school attendances." He said they were naturally 
anxious at the beginning of the war to secure recruits 
and to get the harvest in as well. " The words we used 
applied to a particular emergency, and had been 
misconstrued subsequently as applicable to the whole 
farming year." He repudiated any intention on the 
Government's part to reduce the school-leaving age. 
Mr. Pease continued as follows : 

It was rather a curious fact that where wages had been 
highest there had been shown no tendency on the part of 
farmers to demand the help of the children, but where 
cheap labour was required the children were withdrawn. 
With reference to woman labour Mr. Pease remarked that 
the wages offered were practically no more than pocket 
money, and the same was true in the case of children. 


The Government were investigating the labour supply, 
and a committee of farmers were also co-operating with 
the labour exchanges as to the provision of adult labour. 

On February 25 a debate on the whole question was 
started in the House of Commons by Mr. Keir Hardie. 
In this debate Sir Harry Verney, on behalf of the Board 
of Agriculture, said that the policy of the Board was 
" to encourage the use of every available form of labour 
in preference to withdrawing children from school." 
The Board suggested as expedients to meet the shortage, 
first, the raising of wages, as a means of attracting 
back those who had left farm labour for other occupa- 
tions. Further, it was suggested that use might be 
made of Belgian, and possibly of Dutch and Danish, 
labour, and that the Irish labourers, who usually 
come to England at certain seasons, might be brought 
over earlier. If there was still a shortage, the Board 
advised the employment of women. Sir Harry Verney 
pointed out that the demand for boy labour came 
from those counties in which women did not work in 
the fields : he mentioned that in Scotland the pro- 
portion of women farm workers to men was 41 per cent, 
and in Northumberland 31, whereas in Bedfordshire 
it was only 0.5 and in Wiltshire 1.2. This being so, 
where, he asked, was the necessity for child labour ? 

Mr. Pease, on behalf of the Board of Education, 
said that he hoped the result of the debate would be 
to deter local authorities from relaxing their regula- 
tions. " The Government absolutely declines," he 
said, " to introduce legislation, which in their opinion 
would be of a retrograde character, by allowing the 
exploitation of boy labour." 

A second debate on the same subject took place 
on March 4, when Mr. Chaplin returned to the charge 


on behalf of the farmers. On this occasion Mr. Asquith 
made an entirely meaningless speech, in which he 
said that the question of boy labour was " entirely 
a question of degree and relative expediency." The 
first part of his speech, which was punctuated by 
Opposition cheers, seemed to imply a withdrawal of 
what Mr. Pease and Sir Harry Verney had said : the 
second part was a less satisfactory reafnrmation of the 
principles they had laid down. The general result was 
that the issue was clouded, and the farmers and local 
authorities were encouraged to go on and chance the 

After these debates, the Board of Agriculture 
decided to hold special conferences with the farming 
interest, and local conferences were arranged between 
the farmers and the Labour Exchanges. The farmers 
were also asked to produce locally definite evidence 
of the shortage of labour. Representatives of the 
Agricultural Labourers' Union and other Unions have 
in vain sought admission to these conferences, though 
their demand has been backed by the Workers' National 

So far as it can yet be estimated, the general result 
of these enquiries reveals that the permanent shortage 
of labour has been greatly exaggerated, and, outside 
a few districts, applies only to certain skilled workers 
whose places cannot in any case be taken by children. 
There is, undoubtedly, a real shortage of extra men 
who can be called in for the hay and grain harvests ; 
but the Agricultural Labourers' Union seems to be 
right in saying that there is no great dearth of ordinary 
labourers that could not easily be made up by the 
offer of adequate wages. The harvest difficulty has 
now largely been met by the Government, which is 


willing to allow soldiers temporary leave to help in 
harvest work. 

It is important to understand that the raising of 
wages, recommended by the Trade Unions from the 
beginning as a means of meeting the shortage, has not 
been seriously tried. Only in Scotland do the workers 
seem to have secured at all adequate advances. In 
England there have been a certain number of conces- 
sions ; but these have almost always been bitterly 
resisted by the farmers, and have been as a rule on a 
quite inadequate scale. The farmers, as a class, have 
learnt nothing ; they have still refused to recognise 
Trade Unionism or to advance wages. On these 
grounds the Workers' National Committee has pressed 
the Government to legislate for securing a living wage 
for rural workers. 

The farmers have done their best to keep down 
wages ; but there can be no doubt that the war has 
meant for them greatly increased profits. This is 
not in the main the result of any cornering of wheat, 
but of the natural rise in prices due to the scarcity of 
imported wheat. For the home-grower it is a well- 
known and obvious fact that high prices mean high 
profits. The farmers, then, could afford to pay a 
reasonable wage ; but they absolutely refuse to do so 
while there is a chance of securing cheap labour from 
other sources. 

These were the considerations that led the Agri- 
cultural Labourers' Union to look with suspicion on 
the proposal to introduce women's labour. As we 
saw in the last chapter, the formation of the National 
Register of Women for War Service was widely sus- 
pected of being, at least in part, an attempt of the 
farmers to get cheap labour. The Trade Union, 


holding that the shortage was caused by low wages, 
objected to the labour of women being introduced 
till wages had been raised. 

An investigation of this subject was conducted by 
the Workers' National Committee, which made the 
following recommendation : 

We are of opinion that until substantial advances in 
wages have been offered no proposal to substitute either 
child or female labour should be considered. 

We, therefore, support the Agricultural Labourers' 
Union in their demand for better wages before any other 
source of supply is considered. 

Should the offer of increased wages fail to draw a 
satisfactory response, and the question of women being 
transferred to agriculture become an urgent problem 
and the necessity of British farmers being induced to sow 
still larger areas with wheat this year indicates its greater 
urgency then it should be clearly laid down that no 
women are to be allowed to engage in labour ordinarily 
undertaken by men, except at the same rates of pay. 

The Workers' National Committee concluded that 
the shortage was real, but remediable. Men had been 
attracted from farming to the towns, to hut-building 
work, etc., and these men would return if better wages 
were offered. Enlistments only accounted for about 
half the shortage. 

The women's bodies generally welcomed the proposal 
to reintroduce women into agriculture, in some cases 
with more enthusiasm than sense. Housing conditions 
in the districts where the shortage is greatest effectually 
prevent the introduction of women from outside, and 
seriously stand in the way of replacing* those who have 
enlisted. Very often no cottages are available, and 
it is impossible to turn out the wives and families of 
those who have enlisted, though some employers have 


even taken this scandalous course. If women are to 
be employed, they must be in the main the women of 
the district. As we saw, the proportion of women 
employed is lowest where there is the greatest shortage 
of men, and therefore there should be a large reserve 
of women available in these districts. 

We may now try to sum up the position so far as 
agriculture is concerned. The Government did almost 
irreparable damage in August 1914 by leading farmers 
and local authorities to believe that school exemptions 
might be given on a large scale and for indefinite 
periods. This played its part in preventing the 
farmers from raising wages so as to keep men on the 
land. Though the Government has since then made 
some attempts to retrieve its first mistakes, it is still 
allowing many exemptions to go unchallenged, and 
the Prime Minister's last speech on the subject was a 
renewed encouragement to the farmers. 

Moreover, the demand for boy labour is not really 
so much an attempt to remedy the shortage of workers 
as an attempt to establish a precedent which will hold 
good after the war. This point was well emphasised 
in a letter from the Bishop of Oxford published in the 
Times of March 5 : 

The ground of anxiety lies in the consideration that 
the existing shortage is not likely to be temporary. In 
other words, I do not believe that the young men who have 
enlisted for the war are likely to return to the land, under 
the old conditions, after the war. I have taken the oppor- 
tunity of consulting a number of clergy who know the 
lads well. They have all expressed the same opinion. 
The lads are already greatly improved by military service 
and better feeding. They are greatly pleased with them- 
selves. They are tasting what seems to them a more 
interesting life than they knew before. Whatever they 


become after the war, they will not return to what they 
were. It is therefore not a temporary but a permanent 
shortage of labour that has to be met. It must be met, I 
believe, by improving wages and conditions so as to attract 
labour to the country ; and this improvement had better 
be begun at once and on a systematic scale. Also educa- 
tion should not be curtailed, but in every way improved 
so as to make rural education a better preparation for 
rural life. To meet the shortage by withdrawing boys 
prematurely from school on a large scale is a disastrously 
reactionary measure, which it will be hard to reverse. 

There are few signs that the Government, or the 
country, is alive to this danger. We might well learn 
in this matter from France, where the Minister of 
Education has issued to local authorities a circular 
containing the following passage : 

The existing laws on the attendance of boys at school 
must be maintained this year with more strictness than 
ever. ... It would be disgraceful to see children robbed 
of their education as if the military service of their fathers 
had left them only the choice between beggary and pre- 
mature wage-labour. 

I pass now from agriculture to industrial employ- 
ment, which is also covered by the tables given on 
p. 256. It will be seen from these tables that, in 
county areas, 150 boys and 28 girls were released from 
school for non - agricultural employment between 
September and January. In urban areas the numbers 
were 534 and 228. These figures, small in bulk, are 
in a few individual instances, particularly disgraceful. 
Cardiff alone released no fewer than 263 boys and 59 
girls, Widnes released 86 boys and 58 girls, South 
Shields 42 boys and 29 girls, and Gateshead 34 boys 
and 22 girls. Thus, these four centres accounted for 
593 out of a total number released for all purposes in 


urban areas of 768. No action seems to have been 
taken against these urban authorities. The fact that 
these exemptions for industrial purposes are confined to 
a very few centres, and that they have not been applied 
for in the great industrial towns proves that there is no 
need for them. Industry as a whole gets on quite well 
without them, though there have been in other centres 
a good many cases of illegal employment of boys with- 
out special exemption. The superintendent of school 
attendance officers for Paddington said in February that 
650 cases of illegal employment of schoolboys had been 
brought to his knowledge since the outbreak of war, 
and that 100 summonses had been issued against the 

In fairness to the Government it is necessary to 
report the cases in which it has done its best to dis- 
courage the employment of children of school age in 
industry. On February 4, the day on which the 
Government refused legislation to allow the wholesale 
employment of children in agriculture, Mr. McKenna, 
as Home Secretary, made the following reply to a 
question in the House : 

As regards the employment of children in agriculture 
I have no jurisdiction. As regards their employment in 
factories, the only powers which I possess to sanction 
their employment otherwise than in accordance with the 
provisions of the Factory Act are those conferred by 
section 150 of the Act, which authorises the grant of 
exemption in cases of public emergency. I have not made 
any order under this section modifying the provisions in 
the Act as to the employment of children, nor should I 
be prepared to make any such order except in an extreme 
case, where I was satisfied that this was necessary for the 
purpose of accelerating the work being done under an 
urgent navy or army contract. No proposals have been 


made to me for the withdrawal of children twelve years 
old from school, nor have I received any reports from the 
factory inspectors on the subject. 

Later in the month the nut and bolt manufacturers 
of Darlaston applied to the Staffordshire Education 
Committee for permission to employ boys between 
thirteen and fourteen years old on naval and military 
work. The Committee then asked the Home Office 
not to enforce the Elementary Education Act respecting 
the employment of children " during the period for 
which the Board of Education might consent to the 
suspension of the school attendance by-laws." The 
Home Office replied that the employment of children 
not qualified for exemption from school " could only 
be justified in a special case where the Admiralty or 
War Office certified that, owing to the shortage of 
labour, an important contract for war material was 
being unduly delayed." The Admiralty and War 
Office, however (who had also been approached by the 
Darlaston manufacturers), had not made any recom- 
mendations in favour of relaxation, as proposed, either 
generally in respect of the Darlaston works engaged 
on such contracts or on behalf of any particular firm. 
On the contrary, the War Office had deprecated the 
employment of the boys in question, except as an 
extreme measure. Further, it was pointed out that 
the Board of Education had no power to authorise 
the suspension of the school attendance by-laws, and 
that they would be much averse from any general 
relaxation of them. In these circumstances the Home 
Secretary regretted that he could not see his way to 
comply with the Committee's suggestion. 

This action by the Home Office caused the suggestion 
to be dropped. It affords an instructive example 


of what might be done if other departments would 
bring equal pressure on reactionary local bodies. 

I cannot close this chapter, which deals with the 
effect of the war upon the more defenceless types of 
wage-earners, without saying something of the adminis- 
tration of the Factory Acts 1 during the period of war. 
On this question it is very difficult to speak, because 
no data are yet available, or are likely to become so 
until very strong pressure is put on the Government 
to produce them. All that is known is that, almost 
at the beginning of the war, the Factory Acts were 
relaxed in the interest of the munition firms. As to the 
extent of the relaxations and the use that has been 
made of them there is no reliable information. It 
appears, however, that very full use has been made, 
and that in some cases firms have exceeded the powers 
given to them. 

A particularly unpleasant case is that of a firm of 
engineers in Leeds. Early in April this firm was 
prosecuted by the Home Office for breach of the 
Factory Acts. They had obtained relaxations giving 
them power to work female employees from 6 A.M. to 
8 P.M. on ordinary week days and 6 A.M. to 2 P.M. on 
Saturdays. The summonses were in respect of two 

1 Attempts were also made during the early days of the war to 
suspend the operation of the Mines Eight Hours Act and to extend 
the employment of women in the mines and reduce the age for the 
employment of children above or below ground. A special com- 
mittee, including miners' representatives, reported on these and 
other questions at the end of May. It recommended that there 
should be no extension of the employment of women and children, 
and that relaxations of the Eight Hours Act should only be made, 
if at all, locally by agreement between employers and employed. 
It also recommended to all intents and purposes that further enlist- 
ment among miners should be prevented. There was already at 
the end of February a net shrinkage of 13 J per cent in the numbers 


girls who went to work at 6 o'clock on a Friday morning. 
One girl worked for thirty hours at a stretch, the other 
for 25! hours. Possibly the second girl would have 
gone on longer ; but at this point she met with an 
accident. One of the girls was less than eighteen 
years old. 

The case came up before the Leeds Stipendiary 
Magistrate, who dismissed it on grounds of " national 
urgency." This did not satisfy the Home Office, which 
again brought the case up, this time with the consent 
and countenance of the War Office. At this second 
trial Mr. Marshall Hall, K.C., for the defence, described 
the prosecution as " a piece of fatuous folly, only justi- 
fied by supreme ignorance." He said that, instead of 
bringing a prosecution, the Home Office " ought to 
have struck a special medal " for the girls. " Now," 
he said, " is not the time to talk about Factory Acts." 
The magistrate again refused to register a conviction, 
merely dealing with the case under the Probation 
Act, and calling on the defendants to obey the law. 
There seems no reason, in face of his action, for their 
doing this. 

This case provides an insight into the state 
of mind which makes the exploitation of women's 
and children's labour such a real danger. Those in 
authority have lost their heads completely, and seem 
willing to sanction anything, if it is only done in 
the name of patriotism. In this particular instance 
we have it on the authority of both the Home Office 
and the War Office that they disapproved of the action 
taken. The Home Office representative at the trial 
quoted the Master-General of the Ordnance Depart- 
ment as saying that " the extension of hours of labour 
does not produce very satisfactory results or increase 



the supply of munitions of war." In short, the motive 
behind attempts to suspend the Factory Acts and the 
Education Acts is often not so much patriotism as the 
desire to destroy the social legislation that was slowly 
built up during the last century. Against such attempts 
Labour ought to be always on its guard : if it once 
allows the administration of these Acts to be relaxed, 
it will be no easy matter to restore even the unsatis- 
factory state in which these questions stood before the 



IT is less profitable to ask what will be the position of 
Labour after the war than to ask what Labour can do 
now to prepare itself for the " outbreak of peace." 
Whatever may be the position of industry when the 
war ends, whether trade be good or bad, whether 
prices be high or low, whether labour be scarce or 
plentiful, it is certain that the organised workers will 
have many difficult problems to face and that their 
power to confront them successfully will depend 
largely on their action while the war lasts. It is 
therefore of supreme importance that they should not 
allow their minds to be so taken up with other things 
as to neglect the urgent problems of labour organisa- 
tion. All through this book we have been chronicling 
new departures that are of fundamental importance 
to Labour. We have seen how the State has assumed 
a new role in industry, how the Trade Unions have 
been almost forced to assume a more responsible 
position in the national economy, how invention has 
been speeded up, and how old methods of organisation 
are breaking down among both employers and em- 
ployed. We have now to attempt the difficult task 
of estimating Labour's power of adapting itself to the 



new situation, and of suggesting the immediate measures 
that ought to be taken. We have to pick up the 
scattered threads of the preceding chapters and to 
attempt roughly to describe the new conditions. 

It is patent that much will depend upon the state 
of trade at the end of the war. When we remember 
how wrong most of the prophets went in estimating 
the effect of the war on employment during 1914, we 
have every right to be cautious in forecasting the 
effects of peace. Already, those who are bold enough 
to prophesy differ very widely in their forecasts, 
according, in general, as they set out from one or other 
of two sets of premises. 

The optimists generally reason more or less in this 
way. The war has caused, and is causing, an immense 
destruction of life and property. The loss of working 
lives cannot yet be replaced, and will mean a fall in 
the number of producers. The property that has 
been destroyed, on the other hand, can and must be 
replaced. There will, then, be fewer workers and more 
work. This means good trade and no unemployment. 

The pessimists, on the other hand, start not from 
an estimate of national needs, but from a survey of 
available capital. Money, they say, will be dear after 
the war : there will be difficulty in obtaining capital 
for industrial enterprises because taxation will be 
heavy and there will therefore be less saving. What- 
ever national needs may be, they hold, therefore, that 
trade will be depressed and employment scarce. 

The optimists point to the rapid recovery of France 
after the war of 1870, and to the rapid restoration of 
San Francisco after the great earthquake. The pessi- 
mists point to the state of trade in England during the 
years immediately succeeding the Napoleonic wars. 


It may be doubted whether any of these parallels 
really affords enlightenment. 

The balance of the argument seems to incline to a 
modified optimism. The last hundred years have 
greatly increased the adaptability of the economic 
system, and it seems likely that the capital will be 
forthcoming for the restoration of the property that 
has been destroyed. This can only mean, for the 
richer classes at any rate, a reduction of personal 
expenditure, and the State will undoubtedly have to 
play an important part as financier in setting industry 
again on its feet, whatever method it adopts for this 
purpose ; but there seems no ground for the pessimistic 
assumption that the economic system is so inelastic 
that production will fall off just when it is most needed. 
The problem will be that of securing adequate saving ; 
for the means of reproducing industrial capital under 
the present system is that of personal saving by the 
investor. Instead of spending his income on what is 
immediately consumed, he must, if capital is to be 
reproduced, save and invest. If individual saving is 
not enough to meet this problem, the State will have 
to step in, and, by taxation, save and invest on behalf 
of the nation. 

Fortunately, this problem is of much less magnitude 
in the case of Great Britain than of France or Belgium. 
Merchant shipping apart, we have as yet suffered no 
great industrial losses, though the stoppage of a great 
part of our annual industrial production represents a 
very serious capital loss. This, however, will probably 
affect overseas investment more than home investment, 
and need not, therefore, have a serious effect on employ- 
ment at home. For Great Britain the problem is not 
so much that industrial capital will have to be replaced 


on a large scale though this is true as that industry 
will have to undergo an enormous transformation. 
The war has diverted production into unfamiliar and 
unnatural channels : the problem will be that of 
restoring it to the old channels. We shall have, in the 
first place, to recover the markets we held before the 
war, or to secure others as good, and, in the second 
place, to retransform our factories and reorganise our 
workers for the production of the munitions of peace. 

These two processes will be going on simultaneously, 
and both of them will take tune. While, therefore, we 
may be optimistic about their ultimate results, we may 
with reason be pessimistic about the period of transition. 
It seems probable that immediately, or soon, after the 
war there will come a slump, at least in some of our 
chief industries. How long this slump lasts will depend 
mainly on the rapidity with which markets are re- 
captured : but, long or short, it will be the period 
during which the destiny of Labour will most probably 
be decided. 

I am here attempting to deal with the future of 
trade only in so far as it affects the workers directly, 
that is, in relation to the all-important problem of 
employment. The danger clearly is that during the 
slump after the war the employers will take advantage 
of Labour's temporary weakness not only to cut down 
wages and secure long agreements unfavourable to 
the workers, but also to make an attack, open or veiled, 
upon Trade Unionism itself. It is against this that 
the workers have to be on their guard. 

As we have seen, the great majority of the wage 
advances given during the war have taken the form 
of bonuses, which hold good only while the peculiar 
circumstances created by the war continue to exist. In 


discussing the " war bonus " method, and in particular 
the awards of the Government Committee on Produc- 
tion, we saw the uncertainty as to the conditions 
governing such advances. " War wages, recognised 
as due to, and dependent on, the existence of the 
abnormal conditions now prevailing in consequence 
of the war " might, we saw, mean several things. 
Does it mean that, as soon as prices fall, the bonus 
automatically ceases ? In this case, Labour may 
have to negotiate new agreements when, though prices 
are low, trade is bad and there is an over-supply of 
workers. If so, will not Labour be compelled to accept 
unfavourable terms, and probably be tied down to 
them long after trade has recovered? Or does it 
mean, as it surely should mean, that the bonus will 
continue until industry can be regarded as normal once 
again ? It is for this interpretation that the workers 
should press now, and the Committee on Production 
should be compelled to make its meaning more explicit. 

On the other hand, some bonuses are to terminate 
six months after the end of the war. This period is 
surely far too short to allow of the restoration of 
industry to normal conditions. Since the bonus 
movement has been allowed to spread, the best course 
now is to see that the bonuses are not removed till 
Labour is strong enough to confront the employer on 
equal terms. 

Wages, however, are not the only, or even the most 
vital, problem. The danger is that capitalism will 
use the " outbreak of peace as a signal for a con- 
certed attack on Trade Union rights. The danger of 
this was made manifest in our discussion of the relaxa- 
tion of Trade Union rules and of the general relations 
between Trade Unionism and the Government during 


1915. The employers, in demanding a general abroga- 
tion of Union rules, had in mind, there is only too much 
reason to believe, the situation after the war no less 
than the need for speeding up the production of 

There are, no doubt, some Trade Union rules which 
no reasonable person wishes to see restored. Of such 
a nature are some, though by no means all, of the 
regulations dealing with the demarcation between 
trades. Some of these rules are part and parcel of an 
old-fashioned system of craft Unionism which is no 
less clogging to production than it is destructive of 
effective Trade Union action. The limitation of craft 
in many cases urgently needs breaking down, and, 
provided this is not done by substituting the lower- 
paid for the higher-paid worker, the collapse of many 
demarcation rules would be no cause for regret. 

This, however, is true only of some rules governing 
demarcation between skilled trades, and is not true 
at all of the rules preventing unskilled and semi- 
skilled workers from doing what is regarded as skilled 
work. As we saw in an earlier chapter, disputes 
between the skilled and the unskilled are not recog- 
nised by the Unions as demarcation disputes ; but 
this does not mean that they are not of the greatest 
importance. Unless and until not merely one industry, 
but all industries, become blackleg-proof, it will be 
necessary for the workers in skilled trades to limit the 
supply of labour in those trades. If an over-supply of 
workers in them is allowed to arise, standard rates 
will inevitably fall, and the whole fabric of Trade 
Unionism will be menaced. Waterside workers, en- 
gineers, textile operatives, and many other classes of 
workers are fully alive to this danger, from which 


comes the greater part of the opposition to the with- 
drawal of Trade Union rules for the war period. 

We have seen that the first need, when rules were 
relaxed, was that full guarantees of a reversion to the 
previous conditions should be given by the Government 
as well as the employers, and we have given reason 
for believing that the actual guarantees afforded by 
the Munitions Act will prove utterly ineffectual. 
What, then, are the Trade Unions to do ? 

It may be said that this question shows too much 
consideration for the skilled workers and all too little 
for the semi-skilled and the unskilled. This is not so. 
It is true enough that, up to the present, the Trade 
Unions of skilled workers have shown scant sympathy 
for the unskilled. Where the skilled man has been the 
direct employer of the less skilled, as in spinning, he 
has almost uniformly kept his wages down and exploited 
him just as the capitalist would have done. Where 
both are alike directly employed by the capitalist, 
the skilled men have too often shut the less skilled 
men out of their Unions, or only admitted them on 
impossible terms. Seldom indeed have they done 
anything of their own free will to improve the condi- 
tions of the less skilled, though in this respect there 
has been a marked improvement during the last few 
years. The great miners' strike of 1912, for instance, 
was in the interests of the lower-paid workers, and a 
great miners' movement on behalf of the surfacemen 
seemed to be imminent before the war. In the engin- 
eering shops, too, where the conservative instinct is 
as a rule very strong among the skilled men, there 
have been, in certain localities, refreshing examples of 
action on behalf of the unskilled. Broadly speaking, 
however, it is true that the skilled workers have treated 


the unskilled workers badly. This has led very natur- 
ally to a marked spirit of hostility to the skilled in 
some of the unskilled labour Unions. 

But, despite these facts, it is in the main true that, 
if the skilled worker suffers, the unskilled will suffer 
also. Skilled rates of wages to a great extent deter- 
mine the rates paid to less skilled workers, and, if the 
former fall, the latter will be likely to fall with them. 
If, then, the unskilled, in their resentment against the 
skilled, assist the masters against them, they will in 
the long run be prejudicing their own interests. A 
permanent relaxation of Trade Union rules, admitting 
unskilled workers to work on any skilled job, would 
in the end force down the general level of wages, and 
hurt all classes of workers alike. 

The interests of skilled and unskilled are, then, 
really identical, and it is essential that closer co- 
operation between them should be secured before the 
war ends. Attention has already been drawn to the 
apparent breakdown of the many amalgamation 
schemes that were being formulated before the war, 
and to the need for carrying these through with all the 
more vigour because of the war. It would, however, 
be Utopian to imagine that amalgamation during the 
war is likely to do very much towards solving the 
problem. Important as amalgamation is, there is 
more immediate hope in other methods of co-operation 
between Unions which may, later on, lead to amal- 
gamation. In particular, the local Munitions Com- 
mittees in the great armament centres will force the 
workers, whatever their Unions, to co-operate more 
closely, and the considerable possibilities latent in 
these Committees will entail common action that may 
well pave the way to complete fusion. In these cases 


skilled and unskilled will have to co-operate, and it 
is to be hoped that the need of the moment will teach 
them so to compose their differences as to realise the 
advantages of unity in the future. 

There can, however, be no settlement unless the 
skilled Unions very greatly modify their outlook. 
They must realise that they exist not merely to raise 
the wages and better the conditions of the skilled, but 
to fight for all the workers in the industry. They 
must recognise, far more than they have done in the 
past, that all have a common struggle before them, 
and they must be prepared to sacrifice their conserva- 
tive craft prejudices. Above all, they must recognise the 
inevitable tendency of the modern industrial system to 
break down the barriers between skilled and unskilled. 

This, indeed, is the crux of the whole matter. 
For a long time, the process of invention has been 
profoundly changing the function of the worker in 
production. Where, not so very long ago, there were 
a large number of skilled workers and a large number 
of almost unskilled labourers, there are now a smaller 
proportion of highly skilled and a smaller proportion 
of unskilled jobs. There has come into being, between 
the skilled and the unskilled, a vast body of semi- 
skilled labour, minding machines which take the place 
of the skilled worker. 

This development the war has accelerated to an 
almost incredible extent. In one year, it has done 
more to change the methods of production than could 
have been accomplished in a decade of peace. When, 
therefore, after the war, the attempt is made to restore 
the various grades of labour to their old positions, it 
will be found that in many cases these positions no 
longer exist. 


If, then, the skilled and the unskilled are still 
without means of organised co-operation, or if, worse 
still, they elect to fight one another for the possession 
of the various processes and the right to handle various 
tools, the employers will seize their opportunity. 
Wherever he thinks it will pay, the employer will 
pick the cheapest grade of labour and fight its battle 
against the more highly paid grades. And then, 
when the skilled Trade Unions are broken, the employer 
will turn upon his late allies, and a general reduction 
of wages and worsening of conditions will take place. 

All this will only happen if the Unions prove them- 
selves incapable of rising to the situation that now 
confronts them. It is absolutely necessary that, 
wherever possible, Unions should amalgamate on 
industrial lines : it is no less necessary that the skilled 
Unions should open their ranks to semi-skilled and 
unskilled workers, and that they should admit these 
grades not as inferiors, but on absolutely equal terms. 
This does not prevent the laying down, within the 
industrial Union, of lines of division between craft and 
craft, or the limitation of the supply of labour in any 
craft ; but these questions should be settled within one 
Union, and not by conflict between rival Unions. 

This need for admitting the unskilled workers to 
some kind of membership in the skilled Unions applies 
no less to those who are called " war workers " than to 
those who were in regular employment before the war. 
The " war workers " form the most dangerous body 
of competitors whose rate-cutting powers the Unions 
have to fear. If they are left unorganised, many of 
them will inevitably consent to accept employment 
below Trade Union rates after the war is over, and, 
no less inevitably, many of them will consent to black- 


leg in case of disputes. Somehow or other, they must 
become Trade Unionists, and by far the best course 
seems to be that of enrolling them as emergency 
members in the Unions catering for the class of workers 
whose work they are doing. This should not be in 
any way prevented by the fact that many of them will 
leave the industry when the war ends : it is the reason 
for making them emergency, instead of ordinary, 
members. The difficulty of defining emergency labour, 
great as it is, should not be insuperable. 

This argument applies no less to women's labour 
than to men's. It is far more dangerous for Labour 
to leave the women and the male unskilled workers 
unorganised than it is to admit them to the Unions 
as emergency members. There is also far less risk of 
friction if the women are in the same Union with the 
men than if they are compelled, in self-defence, to 
organise apart. The women need the men's help in 
securing fair rates and conditions ; the men need to 
organise the women for fear of being undercut. 

A few difficulties have to be faced in the application 
of this general principle. A large proportion of the 
emergency workers will certainly find their way into 
the general labour Unions, in which many of the 
unskilled were already enrolled before the war. It 
is no less necessary for the general labour Unions to 
enrol them as emergency members than it is in the case 
of the skilled Unions. This done, the provisional 
solution lies in closer co-operation between the skilled 
Unions and the general labour Unions. 

A second problem arises in the case of Trade 
Unionists who, owing to the war, have shifted from 
one industry to another. Thus, textile workers of 
various kinds are employed in armament factories in 


the North of England and the Midlands, and a good 
many compositors are now working in Woolwich 
Arsenal. In these cases, doubt is raised whether the 
worker should join the Union of his temporary trade, 
or keep on with his old Union, or both. The only 
safe answer seems to be that, whenever possible, a 
special arrangement should be entered into between 
the Unions concerned, but that in any case the worker 
should join, as an emergency member, the Union of 
his temporary trade, maintaining, if possible, member- 
ship in his old Union. Special arrangements between 
the Unions are very desirable wherever any number 
of workers are concerned. 

A great Trade Union campaign is needed for the 
organisation of emergency workers and all other non- 
unionists. Such a campaign is already being attempted 
in some industries : the General Union of Textile 
Workers, for instance, is doing its best to organise the 
non-unionists in the woollen industry. But there is 
still ample room for a national campaign, not confined 
to any one industry, but aiming at the elimination of 
the non-unionist as such. In some industries at any 
rate the conditions created by the war are highly 
favourable to active Trade Union recruiting. As the 
Unions become more obvious responsible partners in 
industry, they can offer new inducements to the 
non-unionists. Ideally, the best solution would be 
the organisation of all emergency workers in one great 
Emergency Labour Union under central control ; but, 
as there is no chance that this will be done, I have 
recommended what seems the second-best course. It 
will in any case be necessary to make arrangements for 
these emergency Trade Unionists to join the Unions 
of the trades which they join after the war. " Once 


a Trade Unionist always a Trade Unionist," must 
be the watchword of the movement. 

Nevertheless, however successful the Unions may 
be in increasing their membership, they will have 
difficult problems to face at the end of the war. That 
which bulks largest is of course the return to industry 
of men now on military service. This will mean, in 
a great many cases, the displacement of emergency 
workers : in others, the returning soldier will find 
himself out of a job, and will become a dangerous 
competitor in the labour market. 

It is not easy to estimate the real gravity of 
this problem. Certainly it is sometimes exaggerated. 
Some persons seem to assume that where two million 
men have enlisted two million men will return ; but 
this is, of course, to take no account of the very heavy 
casualties. Many will not return at all, and many 
more will return incapacitated for their old jobs. 

Of those who return in good health and without 
loss of limb, a large proportion will probably be rapidly 
absorbed. This, at least, we may expect to be the case 
with most of the skilled men, including the very large 
body of miners who have enlisted. This will entail a 
large displacement of emergency labour, only a part of 
which is likely to be absorbed at once into its old 
occupations. There will then be left on the labour 
market the remainder of the displaced men together 
with the able-bodied soldiers who do not return to 
their jobs. In the main, it is probable that the pre- 
ference of the employer will go to the soldier, and that, 
if there remains a large surplus of labour, it will consist 
mainly of emergency workers who will only be slowly 
absorbed. If these workers have been organised as 
Trade Unionists during the war, they will then be 


less likely to undercut standard rates. The risk is, 
however, in any case very grave. 

It should not be assumed that the surplus will be 
anything like as large as the number of displaced 
workers. Many of those who are now employed in 
industry, especially women, are very unlikely to wish 
to retain their employment after the war. Especially 
in the woollen industry, many married women have 
returned to their old occupations, and most of these 
will probably be ready to retire when the war is over. 
There are also not a few superannuated workers who 
have taken up employment for the war period only. 

In addition to all these classes of workers, there 
remains the important class of partially disabled 
soldiers. These men will probably return in many 
cases with inadequate pensions, which they may well 
be ready to eke out with insufficient wages. But 
though there is a problem here, it is probably not very 
grave, and it does not in any case greatly affect the 
staple industries. The partially disabled are more 
likely to find work in the smaller trades. Here they 
may be powerful competitors ; but their competition 
will not materially affect the general position, since it 
is the strength of the workers in the great industries 
that must necessarily determine this. 

The gravity of the whole problem of demobilisation 
will depend in the main on the policy which the Govern- 
ment elects to pursue. If the whole army is discharged 
at once when the war is over, for a time at least the 
labour market will be seriously overstocked, and the 
position of Labour gravely menaced. If, on the other 
hand, only those workers who have definite jobs to go 
to are discharged immediately, and the rest remain 
till they can safely be drafted back into industry, 


the problem will largely disappear that is, if trade 
becomes good within a reasonably short time. If 
there is a long spell of general bad trade, nothing can 
prevent Trade Unionism from being seriously weakened 
and Trade Union rates from being heavily reduced. 

Nothing, that is to say, except a change of spirit 
in the world of Labour. If the workers who return 
from the war return in a spirit of industrial militancy, 
there are quite different possibilities. Throughout the 
foregoing anticipations, it has been assumed that the 
spirit of the workers and of Trade Unionism will remain 
roughly the same as it has been in the past, reformist 
and pacific, with, at the most, only spasmodic outbreaks 
of a more violent character. Is it probable that this 
will be the case ? 

Mr. Sidney Webb, in a speech delivered to the 
Hermes Club, said, apparently with satisfaction, that 
the workers would return from military service in a 
more disciplined frame of mind, and that one effect of 
the war would be to crush the spirit of revolt. It is 
very much to be doubted whether he is right. It 
seems at least as probable that those who return from 
a life spent in the open air will be far more intolerant 
of the routine and the petty oppressions of workshop 
life, and far readier for some sort of revolt against it. 
There is at least a hope that the coming of peace will 
herald the coming of a more militant Trade Unionism. 

One other remark made by Mr. Webb in the same 
speech is worthy of mention. The war, he said, would 
result in a very great increase in the industrial power 
of the State. This is undoubtedly true, and it is a fact 
that Labour would do well to face. The breakdown 
of private capitalism under the strain of war has 
meant, to a considerable extent, the substitution of 



crude and temporary forms of State control over 
industry. Doubtless, in many cases the State will 
only too readily hand the control back to the private 
capitalist ; but the matter will not end there. Where 
State control has once been exercised, it can easily 
be exercised again ; and it is at least doubtful whether 
there will ever be complete restoration of private 
enterprise. The railways, for instance, may quite 
possibly be permanently nationalised, though pro- 
duction will almost certainly pass back into private 
control. But, whatever the immediate effects of the 
war, State interference, both in Labour disputes and 
in the control of industry, will have become far easier, 
and the workers will have to be on guard against the 
use of the State's power in the interests of capital 
and against themselves. Compulsory arbitration is a 
danger not lightly to be dismissed. 

The gravity of this peril again depends largely on 
the action taken by the Trade Unions during the war. 
Had they played their cards well, the increase in the 
power of the State would have been paralleled by an 
increase in the power of Trade Unionism : if the State 
would have secured a foothold in the control of 
industry, Labour would have done so no less. If the 
Unions had used the opportunity afforded them by 
the " national organisation of Labour," and if, at the 
same time, they had not neglected to strengthen 
themselves by eliminating, as far as possible, the non- 
unionist and by improving their own organisation, the 
war might have set on foot that partnership between 
the State and the Unions which alone can afford even 
a provisional solution of the industrial problem. But, 
now that the Unions have given all and demanded 
nothing in return, their reward will be a weakening of 


power which will set back for decades the whole move- 
ment towards industrial freedom. The passing of the 
Munitions Act deprives them of their last chance of 
retrieving the situation. 

There are, it must be confessed, few enough signs 
that the workers are alive to the urgency of the problem. 
The Trade Union Congress, suspended last year, is 
indeed to meet this September ; but it does not seem 
that the event is being regarded as of any great im- 
portance. 1 Yet surely never before has the movement 
been confronted with such tremendous issues. Could 
this year's Trade Union Congress be a truly repre- 
sentative Parliament of Labour, and not merely a 
collection of somewhat old and world-weary officials, 
there would be a unique chance before it. The Trade 
Union movement as a whole has never taken counsel 
on the situation created by the war ; but what is 
needed is a common policy to be pursued in every 
industry and by every Union. Could the Congress be 
persuaded to elect a live Committee to investigate all 
the problems arising out of the war and to suggest a 
policy to a special Congress to be summoned as soon 
as possible, Labour might yet equip itself with a 
common policy and be in a position to take full ad- 
vantage of, or at the worst lose as little as possible by, 
the situation after the war. If something of this sort 
is not done, it seems only too likely that one Union will 
pull one way and one another, and that the movement 
will be defeated piecemeal, when unity might have 
secured a victory. For nothing is more certain than 
that, for Labour, the coming of peace between nations 
means the coming of war between classes. 

1 The Agenda contains only one group of resolutions of the 
slightest interest. These deal with women's labour. No other 
vital problem is even touched upon. 


About the future of the international Labour 
movement, I have only this to say. The best chance 
of rebuilding it is to keep the national movements 
strong. For the moment, the task of Labour in Great 
Britain is to maintain its own vitality unimpaired. 
If each national movement does that as it should, the 
international will soon be rebuilt, and it is reasonable 
to hope that the new internationalism of Labour will 
have more power and more understanding than the 



AN Act to make provision for furthering the efficient manu- 
facture, transport, and supply of munitions for the present 
war, and for purposes incidental thereto. 

Be it enacted by the King's Most Excellent Majesty by 
and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual 
and Temporal and Commons in this present Parliament 
assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows : 



i. (i) If any difference exists or is apprehended between 
any employer and persons employed or between any two 
or more classes of persons employed, and the difference is 
one to which this part of this Act applies, that difference, 
if not determined by the parties directly concerned or 
their representatives or under existing agreements, may 
be reported to the Board of Trade by or on behalf of either 
party to the difference, and the decision of the Board of 
Trade as to whether a difference has been so reported to 
them or not and as to the time at which a difference has 
been so reported shall be conclusive for all purposes. 

(2) The Board of Trade shall consider any difference 
so reported, and take any steps which seem to them ex- 
pedient to promote a settlement of the difference, and in 



any case in which they think fit may refer the matter for 
settlement, either in accordance with the provisions of the 
first schedule to this Act, or if in their opinion suitable 
means for settlement already exist, in pursuance of any 
agreement between employers and persons employed for 
settlement in accordance with those means. 

(3) Where a matter is referred under the last foregoing 
sub-section for settlement, otherwise than in accordance 
with the provisions of the first schedule to this Act, and 
the settlement is in the opinion of the Board of Trade 
unduly delayed, the Board may annul the reference, and 
substitute therefor a reference in accordance with the 
provisions of the said schedule. 

(4) The award on any such settlement shall be binding 
both on employers and employed, and may be retrospective, 
and if any employer or person employed thereafter acts 
in contravention of or fails to comply with the award, he 
shall be guilty of an offence under this Act. 


2. (i) An employer shall not declare, cause, or take 
part in a lock-out, and a person employed shall not take 
part in a strike in connection with any difference to which 
this part of this Act applies unless the difference has been 
reported to the Board of Trade, and twenty-one days have 
elapsed since the date of the report and the difference has 
not during that time been referred by the Board of Trade 
for settlement in accordance with this Act. 

(2) If any person acts in contravention of this section 
he shall be guilty of an offence under this Act. 


3. The differences to which this part of this Act applies 
are differences as to rates of wages, hours of work, or other- 
wise as to terms or conditions of or affecting employment 
on the manufacture or repair of arms, ammunition, ships, 


vehicles, aircraft, or any other articles required for use in 
war, or of the metals, machines, or tools required for that 
manufacture or repair (in this Act referred to as munitions 
work), and also any differences as to rates of wages, hours 
of work, or otherwise as to terms or conditions of or affecting 
employment on any other work of any description if this 
part of this Act is applied to such a difference by His 
Majesty by proclamation on the ground that in the opinion 
of His Majesty the existence or continuance of the difference 
is directly or indirectly prejudicial to the manufacture trans- 
port, or supply of munitions of war. 

This part of this Act may be so applied to such a differ- 
ence at any time, whether a lock-out or strike is in existence 
in connection with the difference to which it is applied 
or not, provided that if in the case of any industry the 
Minister of Munitions is satisfied that effective means exist 
to secure the settlement without stoppage of any difference 
arising on work other than on munitions work, no proclama- 
tion shall be made under this section with respect to any 
such difference. When this part of this Act is applied to 
any difference concerning work other than munitions 
work, the conditions of labour and the remuneration 
thereof prevailing before the difference arose shall be 
continued until the said difference is settled in accordance 
with the provisions of this part of this Act. 

4. If the Minister of Munitions considers it expedient 
for the purpose of the successful prosecution of the war 
that any establishment in which munitions work is carried 
on should be subject to the special provisions as to limita- 
tion of employers' profits, and control of persons employed, 
and other matters contained in this section, he may make 
an order declaring that establishment to be a controlled 


establishment, and on such order being made the following 
provisions shall apply thereto : 

(1) Any excess of the net profits of the controlled 
establishment over the amount divisible under this Act, 
as ascertained in accordance with the provisions of this 
Act, shall be paid into the Exchequer. 

(2) Any proposal for any change in the rate of wages, 
salary, or other emoluments of any class of persons employed 
in the establishment, or of any persons engaged in the 
management or the direction of the establishment (other 
than a change for giving effect to any Government condi- 
tions as to fair wages or to any agreement between the 
owner of the establishment and the workmen which was 
made before the 23rd day of June 1915), shall be sub- 
mitted to the Minister of Munitions, who may withhold 
his consent, within fourteen days of the date of the sub- 
mission, provided that if the Minister of Munitions so 
directs, or if the Minister's consent is withheld, and the 
persons proposing the change so require, the matter shall 
be referred for settlement in accordance with the provisions 
of the first schedule to this Act, and the consent of the 
arbitration tribunal, if given, shall in that case have the 
same effect as the consent of the Minister of Munitions. 

If the owner of the establishment, or any contractor, 
or sub-contractor employing labour therein, makes any 
such change, or attempts to make any such change, with- 
out submitting the proposal for the change to the Minister 
of Munitions, or when the consent of the Minister has been 
withheld, he shall be guilty of an offence under this Act. 

(3) Any rule, practice, or custom not having the force 
of law which tends to restrict production or employment 
shall be suspended in the establishment, and if any person 
induces, or attempts to induce, any other person (whether 
any particular person or generally) to comply or continue 
to comply with such a rule, practice, or custom, that 
person shall be guilty of an offence under this Act. If 
any question arises, whether any rule, practice, or custom 
is a rule, practice, or custom which tends to restrict pro- 
duction or employment that question shall be referred to 


the Board of Trade, and the Board of Trade shall either 
determine the question themselves, or if they think it 
expedient, or either party requires it, refer the question 
for settlement in accordance with the provisions contained 
in the first schedule to this Act. The decision of the 
Board of Trade or arbitration tribunal, as the case may 
be, shall be conclusive for all purposes. 

(4) The owner of the establishment shall be deemed 
to have entered into an undertaking to carry out the 
provisions set out in the second schedule to this Act, and 
any owner, or contractor, or sub-contractor who breaks 
or attempts to break such an undertaking shall be guilty 
of an offence under this Act. 

(5) The employer and every person employed in the 
establishment shall comply with any regulations made 
applicable to that establishment by the Minister of Muni- 
tions with respect to the general ordering of the work in 
the establishment with a view to attaining and maintaining 
a proper standard of efficiency, and with respect to the 
due observance of the rules of the establishment. If the 
employer, or any person so employed, acts in contravention 
of or fails to comply with any such regulations that person 
shall be guilty of an offence under this Act. 

(6) The owners of an establishment shall have power, 
notwithstanding anything in any Act, Order, or deed under 
which they are governed, to do all things necessary for 
compliance with any provisions of this section, and any 
owner of an establishment shall comply with any reason- 
able requirements of the Minister of Munitions as to informa- 
tion or otherwise made for the purposes of this section, 
and if he fails to do so shall be guilty of an offence under 
this Act. Where in any establishment munitions work is 
carried on in some part of the establishment, but not in 
other parts, the Minister of Munitions may, if he considers 
that it is practicable to do so, treat any part of the 
establishment in which munitions work is not carried on 
as a separate establishment, and the provisions of this Act 
shall take effect accordingly. 



5. (i) The net profits of a controlled establishment 
shall be ascertained in accordance with the provisions of 
this section and rules made thereunder, and the amount 
of profits divisible under this Act shall be taken to be an 
amount exceeding by one-fifth the standard amount of 

(2) The standard amount of profits for any period shall 
be taken to be the average of the amount of the net profits 
for two financial years of the establishment completed next 
before the outbreak of the war, or a proportionate part 

(3) If in any case it appears, or is represented to the 
Minister of Munitions, that the net profits or losses of all 
or any other establishments belonging to the same owner 
should be brought into account, or that the average under 
this section affords or may afford an unfair standard of 
comparison or affords no standard of comparison, the 
Minister may, if he thinks just, allow those net profits or 
losses to be brought into account, or substitute for the 
average such an amount as the standard amount of profits 
as may be agreed upon with the owner of the establishment. 
The Minister of Munitions may, if he thinks fit, and shall 
if the owner of the establishment so requires, refer the 
matter to be determined by a referee or board of referees 
appointed or designated by him for the purpose, and the 
decision of the referee or board shall be conclusive on the 
matter for all purposes. 

(4) The Minister of Munitions may make rules for carry- 
ing the provisions of this section into effect, and these 
rules shall provide for due consideration being given in 
carrying out the provisions of this section as respects any 
establishment to any special circumstances, such as in- 
crease of output, provision of new machinery or plant, 
alteration of capital, or other matters which require special 
consideration in relation to the particular establishment. 



6. (i) If any workman, in accordance with arrange- 
ments made by the Minister of Munitions, with or on 
behalf of trade unions, enters into an undertaking with 
the Minister of Munitions that he will work at any controlled 
establishment to which he may be assigned by the Minister, 
and be subject to the penalty imposed by this Act if he 
acts in contravention of, or fails to comply with, the under- 
taking, that workman shall, if he acts in contravention of 
or fails to comply with his undertaking, be guilty of an 
offence under this Act. 

(2) If any employer dissuades, or attempts to dissuade, 
a workman in his employment from entering into an under- 
taking under this section, or retains, or offers to retain, 
in his employment any workman who has entered into 
such an undertaking after he has received notice from the 
Minister of Munitions that the workman is to work at some 
other establishment, that employer shall be guilty of an 
offence under this Act. 


7. (i) A person shall not give employment to a work- 
man who has within the last previous six weeks, or such 
other period as may be provided by order of the Minister 
of Munitions as respects any class of establishment, been 
employed on or in connection with munitions work in any 
establishment of a class to which the provisions of this 
section are applied by order of the Minister of Munitions 
unless he holds a certificate from the employer by whom 
he was last so employed that he left work with the consent 
of his employer or a certificate from the munitions tribunal 
that the consent has been unreasonably withheld. 

(2) If any workman or his trade union representative 
complains to a munitions tribunal in accordance with 


rules made with respect to those tribunals that the consent 
of an employer has been unreasonably withheld, that 
tribunal may, after examining into the case, if they think 
fit, grant a certificate which shall for the purpose of this 
section have the same effect as a certificate from the 

(3) If any person gives employment in contravention 
of the provisions of this section he shall be guilty of an 
offence under this Act. 


8. (i) The Minister of Munitions may make rules 
authorising the wearing of badges or other distinctive 
marks by persons engaged on munitions work or other 
work for war purposes, and as to the issue and return of 
any such badges or marks, and may by those rules pro- 
hibit the use, wearing, or issue of any such badges or of 
any badges or marks indicating or suggesting that any 
person is engaged on munitions work or work for war 
purposes except as authorised by those rules. 

(2) If any person acts in contravention of or fails to 
comply with any such rules he shall be guilty of an offence 
against this Act. 


9. This part of this Act shall apply to any docks used 
by the Admiralty for any purposes connected with the 
war as it applies to establishments in which munitions 
work is carried on, with the substitution in relation to any 
such docks or persons employed in any such docks of the 
Admiralty for the Minister of Munitions. 



(AMENDMENT) (No. 2) ACT, 1915 

10. The following paragraph shall be substituted for 
paragraph (d) set out in Sub-Section (i) of Section i of 
the Defence of the Realm (Amendment) (No. 2) Act, 1915, 
and shall be deemed to have been contained in that Act, 
namely (d) To regulate or restrict the carrying on of 
any work in any factory, workshop, or other premises, or 
the engagement or employment of any workman or all or 
any classes of workmen therein, or to remove the plant 
therefrom with a view to maintaining or increasing the 
production of munitions in other factories, workshops, or 
premises, or to regulate and control the supply of metals 
and material that may be required for any articles for use 
in war. 


ii. (i) The owner of any establishment in which persons 
are employed if so required by the Minister of Munitions 
shall give to the Minister such information in such form 
and in such manner as the Minister may require as to : 

(a) The numbers and classes of persons employed or 
likely to be employed in the establishment from time to 

(b) The numbers and classes of machines at any such 

(c) The nature of the work on which any such persons 
are employed or any such machines are engaged from 
time to time. 

(d) Any other matters with respect to which the Minister 
may desire information for the purpose of his powers and 
duties. And the Minister may arrange with any other 
Government Department for the collection of any such 


(2) If the owner of any establishment fails to comply 
with this section he shall be guilty of an offence under this 


12. If any employer or the owner of any establishment 
or any workman for the purpose of evading any provision 
of this Act makes any false statement or representation 
or gives any false certificate or furnishes any false informa- 
tion he shall be guilty of an offence under this Act. 


13. There shall be paid out of moneys provided by 
Parliament to any person, being a member of an arbitra- 
tion tribunal, munitions tribunal, or board of referees 
under this Act, or being a referee under this Act, and to 
any other officers required in connection with any such 
tribunal or board, such remuneration and travelling or 
other expenses (including compensation for loss of time) 
as the Minister of Munitions or Board of Trade, as the 
case may be, with the sanction of the Treasury, may deter- 


14. (i) Any person guilty of an offence under this Act : 

(a) Shall, if the offence is a contravention of or failure 
to comply with an award, be liable to a fine not exceeding 
5 for each day or part of a day during which the contra- 
vention or failure to comply continues, and if the person 
guilty of the offence is an employer, for each man in respect 
of whom the contravention or failure takes place ; and 

(b) Shall, if the offence is a contravention of the pro- 
visions of this Act with respect to the prevention of lock- 
outs, be liable to a fine not exceeding 5 in respect of each 
man locked out for each day or part of a day during which 
the contravention continues ; and 


(c) Shall, if the offence is a contravention of the pro- 
visions of this Act with respect to the prohibition of 
strikes, be liable to a fine not exceeding 5 for each day or 
part of a day during which the contravention continues ; 

(d) Shall, if the offence is a contravention of or failure 
to comply with any regulations in a controlled establish- 
ment or any undertaking given by a workman under Part 
II. of this Act, be liable in respect of each offence to a fine 
not exceeding 3 ; and 

(e) Shall, if the offence is a contravention of or failure 
to comply with any other provisions of this Act, be liable 
in respect of each offence to a fine not exceeding 50. 

(2) A fine for any offence under this Act shall be recover- 
able only before the munitions tribunal established for the 
purpose under this Act. 


15. (i) The munitions tribunal shall be a person ap- 
pointed for the purpose by the Minister of Munitions sitting 
with two or some other even number of assessors, one-half 
being chosen by the Minister of Munitions from a panel 
constituted by the Minister of Munitions of persons repre- 
senting employers and the other half being so chosen from 
a panel constituted by the Minister of Munitions of persons 
representing workmen, and the Minister of Munitions may 
constitute two classes of munitions tribunals, the first class 
having jurisdiction to deal with all offences and matters 
under this Act, the second class having jurisdiction so far 
as offences are concerned to deal only with any contraven- 
tion of or failure to comply with any regulation made 
applicable to a controlled establishment or any under- 
taking given by a workman under Part II. of this Act. 
The Admiralty shall be substituted for the Minister of 
Munitions under this provision as the authority to appoint 
and choose members of a munitions tribunal to deal with 
offences by persons employed in any docks declared to be 
controlled establishments by the Admiralty. 


(2) The Minister of Munitions or the Admiralty shall 
constitute munitions tribunals as and when occasion 

(3) Rules may be made for regulating the munitions 
tribunals or either class of munitions tribunals so far as 
relates to offences under this Act by a Secretary of State, 
and so far as relates to any other matters which are referred 
to them under this Act by the Minister of Munitions, and 
rules made by the Secretary of State may apply, with the 
necessary modifications, to any of the provisions of the 
summary jurisdiction Acts or any provisions applicable 
to a court of summary jurisdiction which it appears ex- 
pedient to apply, and any provisions so applied shall apply 
to munitions tribunals accordingly. In the application of 
this provision to Scotland the Secretary for Scotland shall 
be substituted for the Secretary of State, and in the applica- 
tion of this provision to Ireland the Lord-Lieutenant shall 
be substituted for the Secretary of State. 

(4) A person employed or workman shall not be im- 
prisoned in respect of the non-payment of a fine imposed 
by a munitions tribunal for an offence within the juris- 
diction of a tribunal of the second class, but that tribunal 
may, without prejudice to any other available means of 
recovery, make an order requiring such deductions to be 
made on account of the fine from the wages of the person 
employed or workman as the tribunal think fit, and 
requiring the person by whom the wages are paid to 
account for any sums deducted in accordance with the 


16. Any company, association, or body of persons shall 
have power, notwithstanding anything contained in any 
Act, order, or instrument by or under which it is con- 
stituted or regulated, to carry on munitions work during 
the present war. 



17. Any rule made under this Act shall be laid before 
each House of Parliament forthwith, and if an address is 
presented to His Majesty by either House of Parliament 
within the next subsequent twenty-one days on which that 
House has sat after any such rule is laid before it praying 
that the rule may be annulled, His Majesty in Council 
may annul the rule, and it shall thenceforth be void but 
without prejudice to the validity of anything previously 
done thereunder. 

18. The Documentary Evidence Act, 1868, as amended 
by the Documentary Evidence Act, 1882, shall apply to 
the Minister of Munitions in like manner as if that Minister 
were mentioned in the first column of the schedule to the 
first-mentioned Act and as if that Minister or a Secretary 
in the Ministry or any person authorised by the Minister 
to act on his behalf were mentioned in the second column 
of that schedule and as if the regulations referred to in 
those Acts included any document issued by the Minister. 


19. In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires : 
(a) The expression " lock-out " means the closing of a 

place of employment or the suspension of work or the 
refusal by an employer to continue to employ any number 
of persons employed by him in consequence of a dispute, 
done with a view to compelling those persons or to aid 
another employer in compelling persons employed by him 
to accept terms or conditions of or affecting employment. 
(6) The expression " strike " means the cessation of 
work by a body of persons employed acting in combination 
or a concerted refusal or a refusal under a common under- 
standing of any number of persons employed to continue 



to work for an employer in consequence of a dispute, done 
as a means of compelling their employer or any person or 
body of persons employed, or to aid other workmen in 
compelling their employer or any person or body of persons 
employed, to accept or not to accept terms or conditions 
of or affecting employment. 


20. (i) This Act may be cited as the Munitions of War 
Act, 1915. 

(2) This Act shall have effect only so long as the office 
of Minister of Munitions and the Ministry of Munitions 
exist. Provided that Part I. of this Act shall continue 
to apply for a period of twelve months after the conclusion 
of the present war to any difference arising in relation to 
the performance by the owner of any establishment of his 
undertaking to carry out the provisions set out in the 
second schedule to this Act notwithstanding that the 
office of Minister of Munitions and the Ministry of Munitions 
have ceased to exist. 



i. Any difference, matter, or question to be referred 
for settlement in accordance with the provisions of this 
schedule shall be referred to one of the three following 
arbitration tribunals : 

(a) The Committee appointed by the First Lord of the 
Treasury known as the Committee on Production ; or 

(b) A single arbitrator to be agreed upon by the parties, 
or in default of agreement appointed by the Board of Trade ; 

(c) A Court of Arbitration consisting of an equal number 
of persons representing employers and persons represent- 


ing workmen, with a chairman appointed by the Board of 

2. The tribunal to which the reference is made shall 
be determined by agreement between the parties to the 
difference, or in default of such agreement by the Board 
of Trade. 

3. The Arbitration Act, 1889, shall not apply to any 
reference under the provisions of this schedule. 


1. Any departure during the war from the practice ruling 
in the workshops, shipyards, and other industries prior to 
the war shall only be for the period of the war. 

2. No change in practice made during the war shall be 
allowed to prejudice the position of the workmen in the 
owners' employment or of their trade unions in regard to 
the resumption and maintenance after the war of any rules 
or customs existing prior to the war. 

3. In any readjustment of staff which may have to be 
effected after the war priority of employment will be given 
to workmen in the owners' employment at the beginning 
of the war who have been serving with the colours or who 
were in the owners' employment when the establishment 
became a controlled establishment. 

4. Where the custom of a shop is changed during the 
war by the introduction of semi-skilled men to perform 
work hitherto performed by a class of workmen of higher 
skill the time and piece rates paid shall be the usual rates 
of the district for that class of work. 

5. The relaxation of existing demarcation restrictions 
or admission of semi-skilled or female labour shall not affect 
adversely the rates customarily paid for the job. In 
cases where men who ordinarily do the work are adversely 
affected thereby the necessary readjustments shall be made 
so that they can maintain their previous earnings. 

6. A record of the nature of the departure from the 
conditions prevailing when the establishment became a 
controlled establishment shall be kept, and shall be open 



for inspection by ithe authorised representative of the 

7. Due notice shall be given to the workmen concerned 
wherever practicable of any changes of working conditions 
which it is desired to introduce as the result of the establish- 
ment becoming a controlled establishment, and opportunity 
for local consultation with workmen or their representa- 
tives shall be given if desired. 

8. All differences with workmen engaged on Govern- 
ment work arising out of changes so introduced or with 
regard to wages or conditions of employment arising out 
of the war shall be settled in accordance with this Act 
without stoppage of work. 

9. Nothing in this schedule (except as provided by the 
fourth paragraph thereof) shall prejudice the position of 
employers or persons employed after the war. 



MOST of the information in this book is necessarily taken 
directly from newspaper files and Trade Union journals. 


BRAILSFORD, H. N. The War of Steel and Gold. 2s. 
HERVE, GUSTAVE. My Country, Right or Wrong. 2s. 6d. 
HUMPHREY, A. W. International Socialism and the War. 

33. 6d. 

WALLING, W. ENGLISH. The Socialists and the War. 6s. 6d. 
WARE, FABIAN. The Worker and his Country. 53. 
WILLIAMS, R. Uncommon Sense about the War. id. 


The sources for this chapter are almost all to be found 
in the files of the Daily Citizen, Daily Herald, and later 
the Herald, Labour Leader, and Justice. 


Labour Gazette (monthly), id. 
(Cd. 7703) Report on the State of Employment in 

October 1914. 4|d. 
(Cd. 7755) Report on the State of Employment in 

December 1914. i|d. 
(Cd. 7850) Report on the State of Employment in 

February 1915. 2|d. 

BOWLEY, A. L. The War and Employment (Oxford 
Pamphlet). 2d. 



CHAPMAN, S. J. The War and the Cotton Trade (Oxford 
Pamphlet). 2d. 


FABIAN SOCIETY. The War Emergency. Local Citizens' 
Committees. Memorandum of Suggestions (Leaflet). 

JOINT BOARD. Trade Unions and Unemployment. (Not 
for sale.) 


(Cd. 7603) Memorandum on the Steps taken for the 
Prevention and Relief of Distress due to the War. 

(Cd. 7763) Report on the Special Work of the L.G.B. 

arising out of the War. 4|d. 

(Cd. 7756) Report on the Administration of the 
National Relief Fund up to March 3ist, 1915. 2|d. 
Minutes of Meetings. 
The Workers and the War : A Programme for Labour 


The War Emergency, id. 
Proposals on Military Pensions, etc. id. 
WEBB, SIDNEY. The War and the Workers (Fabian 
Society), id. 


BOARD OF TRADE. Labour Gazette (monthly), id. 
BOWLEY, A. L. Prices and Earnings in Time of War 

(Oxford Pamphlet). 2d. 

Causes of the Present Rise in the Retail Price of 

Coal. 2d. 

Memoranda and Recommendations on the Increased 

Prices of Wheat and Coal. id. 
WOOLF, L. S. Co-operation and the War : Co-operative 

Action in National Crises (Women's Co-operative 

Guild), id. 



BOARD OF TRADE. Labour Gazette (monthly), id. 

tionist (monthly). d. 
HOUSE OF COMMONS. (H.C. 220) Report and Statistics of 

Bad Time in Shipbuilding, Munitions, and Transport 

Areas. 3d. 
JONES, J. H. Labour Unrest and the War (Political 

Quarterly, May 1915). 3s. 
Round Table. The War and Industrial Organisation (article 

in issue for June 1915). 2s. 6d. 
TRADES UNION CONGRESS. The Industrial Unrest. (Not 

for sale.) 


7848) Interim Report. 4|d. 

FABIAN WOMEN'S GROUP. The War, Women, and Un- 
employment. 2d. 



(Cd. 7881) School Attendance and Employment in 

Agriculture (September 1914-February 1915). 3d. 

(Cd. 7932) School Attendance and Employment in 

Agriculture (September I9i4-April 1915). id. 
ORWIN, C. S. The Farmer in War Time (Oxford Pamphlet). 


Child Labour and Education, id. 
Child Labour in Agriculture, id. 

Report of the Departmental Committee appointed 
to inquire into the Conditions prevailing in the Coal 
Mining Industry due to the War. 


Admiralty, 168, 201, 205, 271 

Admiralty Dockyard employees, 158, 179, 


Agricultural Labourers' Union, 263, 265 
Agriculture, 77, 255 ff. 
Alsace-Lorraine, 58 
Amalgamation, 49-51, 282 (. 
American Federation of Labour, 52 
Anderson, W. C., 30, 218, 234 
Appleton, W. A., 51 
Arbitration, 151 f., 154 f., 159, 162, iSoff., 

184, 185 ff., 193, 215-18, 219, 290 
Armaments, 33 

Armaments Committees, i96ff., 213, 223, 282 
Armstrong, Whitworth & Co., 174 f. 
Ashley, W. J., 133 
Askwith, Sir G. R., 151, 155 
Asquith, Rt. Hon. H. H., 109-11, 130, 162, 

201, 258, 263, 265, 268 
Austrian Socialists, 15, 22, 23 

Banks, women in, 241 
Barnes, G. N., 107, 194 
Bathurst, C., 258 
Bebel, A., 12 
Belgian labour, 175, 264 
Belgian Socialists, 57-9 
Belgium, 6-7, 26, 31, 56, 58 
Birmingham, 64, 243 
Blacksmiths, Associated, 183 
Board of Agriculture, 265 
Board of Education, 84, 100, 256 ff., 271 
Board of Trade, 123, 164, 166, 216, 237 
Boer War, 7 

Boilermakers, 78, 156, 183, 197, 203 ff. 
Bondfield, Margaret, 234, 249 
Bonus. See War Bonus 
Boot and Shoe Operatives, 157, 184 
Bowerman, C. W., 41, 185 
Bowley, A. L., 121 
Boy labour, Ch. IX. 
Brailsford, H. N., u 
Braziers and Sheet Metal Workers, 183 
Briand, 211 

British Section of the International Social- 
ist Bureau, 24, 26, 53 
British Socialist Party, 22, 26, 34, 98 
Brownlie, J. T., 185, 206 
Building industry, 65, 70, 121 
Burnley, 66 

Cabinet, 37 
Cabinet Makers, 183 
Ca' canny, 152, 172 
Canteens, 206 

Card and Blowing Room Operatives, 66, 

114, 164 ff. 
Cardiff, 256, 269 
Carpenters and Joiners, 183 
Chaplin, H., 264 

Charity Organisation Society, 86, 95 
Child labour, Ch. IX. 
Civil Service, women in, 241 
Class- war, Ch. I., 291 
Clyde strike, 59, 136, 147 ff. 
Clynes, J. R., 131, 218 
Coal-heaving, 206 

Coal Mines Organisation Committee, 62 
Coal prices, 126-9, I 33'S, *37 
Coal prices. Government Committee, 133-4 
Coalition Ministry, 207, 209 
Coleridge, Lord, 163 
Committee on Production in Engineering 

and Shipbuilding Establishments. See 

Conscription, 207, 213 
Contracts. See Government contracts 
"Controlled establishments," 218 ff. 
Co-operation, 136-7 
Co-operative Union, 98 
Co-operative Wholesale Society, 98 
Cosmopolitanism, Ch. I. 
Cost of Living. See Prices 
Cotton industry, 64, 65-6, 77, 78, 113-14, 

121, 164 ff., 236, 244 
Cotton Operatives, 216 
Crooks, Will, 27, 133 

Daily Chronicle i 154 

Daily Citizen, 43, 189, 194 

Daily Herald, 42, 43 

Daily Telegraph, 225, 239 

Danish labour, 264 

Darlaston, 271 

Davis, W. J., 41 

Defence of the Realm Acts, 184, 213 

Demarcation, 156, 169, 178-9, 187, 194, 


Demobilisation, 288 
Dent, J. J., 133 
Derby, Lord, 209 ff. 
Development Commission, 82, 100 
Displacement of labour after the war, 287 f. 
Distress Committees, 89 
Dock Labourers, National Union, 209 
Dockers' Battalion, 209 ff., 221 
Dockers' Union, 144 
Drink, 201 ff. 
Duke, H., 223 
Dutch labour, 264 




Earnings, 116-17, 166 
Economic pressure in recruiting, 90, 161 
Education, 254 f., Ch. IX. 
Education in France, 269 
Electrical Trades Union, 183 
Emergency legislation, 36 
Employment, Ch. III., Ch. IV. 
Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades 

Federation, 183 
Engineering Employers' Federation, 147, 

169, 170, 173, 175 
Engineering industry, 65, 70, 121, 143, 158, 


Engineering industry, women in, 242 f. 
Engineers, Amalgamated Society of, 147 ff. , 

171, 178, 183, 185, 188 f., I94,_i95, 206, 243 
Enlistment of skilled workers in Army; 168 
Enlistment of skilled workers for munition 

work, 221 f. 
Equal pay for equal work, 238 ff. , 242, 245 f., 

249 ff. 

Evans, A., 41 
Eviction, 267 
Exemption for school attendance, 255 ff. 

Fabian Society, 26, 34, 08, 101 
Factory Acts, 234, 272 ff. 
Factory Inspectors, 205, 235 
Farmers' Union, 237, 262 
Federationist, 51, 52, 248 
Feeding of school children, 84, 100 
Fifeshire coalfield, 64 
Flannery, Sir F., 258 
Food coupons, 91 
Food prices, 38, 59, 81, 99, Ch. V. 
French Education Minister, 269 
French Socialists, 12, 22, 23, 57-9 
Furnishing Trades Association, 183 

Gasworkers, 183 

Gateshead, 269 

General Confederation of Labour, n, 12, 

I 5, 2 3> S 2 , 57 
General Federation of Trade Unions, 27, 

37, 38-9, 4.4, 5i, 52, 55, 9 8 , 182 
General Strike, n, 53 f. 
German Socialists, 12, 15, 22, 23, 51 
Gibb, Sir G., 155 
Goldstone, F. W., 35 
Gompers, S., 52 
Gosling, H., 41 

Government contracts, 106, 231 ff. 
Greatorex, Capt., 205 
Guarantees, 181-2, 186 ff, 191, 195 

Half-timers, 255 
Hall, Marshall, 273 
Hardie, J. Keir, 25, 26, 53, 54, 57, 264 
Hartshorn, V., 216, 225 
Hatch, Sir E., 178 

Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur, 25, 26, 28, 
30, 35, 36, 108, no, 132, 185, 188, 202, 207 
Herald, 224 
Herve. G., 12, 53 
Hill, John, 41, 185, 197 
Hodge, John, 218 
Home Office, 201, 205, 271 f. 

Hopwood, Sir F., 155 
Hosiery trade, 65 
House-rents, 153 
Housing, 236, 267 

Independent Labour Party, 15, 26, 33, 36, 

Industrial Commission, 151 

Industrial conscription, 150, 208 

Industrial Unionism, 283 

" Industrial truce," 43 ff., 108 

Industry, transformation of, 74, 77-8, 174 

Insurance Act, 223 

Insurance Act, Part II., 69-70, 96, 109, 
111-14, IQ5 

" International," The "Old," 10 

International Federations, 10, n 

International Federation of Trade Unions, 
10, u, 37, 38-9, 51-2 

International Socialist Bureau, 10, 13, 14, 
23, 24, 26, 53, 5? 

International Socialist Congress, 10, n, 12- 
13, 16-17, 22, 23, 46-7; 53^ 

International Trade Union Congress, 10, 53 

International Transport Workers' Federa- 
tion, ii, 52-3 

Internationalism, Ch. I., 33-4, 55-6, 292 

Irish labour, 264 

Iron and steel trades, 64, 65, 121 

Iron and Steel Workers, Associated, 183 

Ironfounders, 183 

Ironmoulders, Associated, 183 

Jackson, T. S., 246 
Jaures, J., 12, 24 
Jellicoe, Sir J., 205 
Jenkins, J., 41 
Jochade, H., 52 
Joint Board, 27, 44-5, 107-11 
Jones, J. H., 147 
Journal of Commerce, 125 
Jowett, F. W., 57 

Kitchener, Lord, 211 

Labour Advisory Committee, 185, 196, 213, 


Labour Exchanges, 88, 89, 96, 235, 237, 265 
Labour Party, 24, 26, 27, 30, 34-5, 36, 39, 

44, 53, 55, 56, 98, 129, 131-2, 173, 201, 202, 

215, 218 

Labour Party Executive, 28, 32, 34-5, 36 
Lace trade, 65, 79 
Lansbury, G., 26 
Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar, 130 
Lawrence, Susan, 258 
Leeds, 272 f. 
Legien, C., 51 
Liquor taxation, 207 
Liverpool, 64, 209 f. 
Lloyd George, D., 93, 163, 182, 184 f., 188, 

189, 195, 200, 201, 207, 209, 212, 213, 214, 
215, 2l6, 217, 2l8, 22O, 239 

Local Government Board, 82, 87, 88-9, 93, 

100, 103 
Lock-out, 165 

Locomotive Engineers and Firemen, 139 
London building lock-out, 44, 138 



London County Council, 160 f. 
London tram strike, 154, 160 f. 

Macarthur, Mary, 249 

MacDonald, J. Ramsay, 7, 27, 30-2, 57 

Machine Workers, United, 172, 183 

McKenna, R., 270 

Mallon, J. J., 231 

Manchester, 213, 243, 244 

Manchester Guardian, 97, 218, 225 

Martial law, 209, 212 

Marx, Karl, 10, 20 

Matkin, W., 41 

Mellor, W., 42 

Methuen, Lord, 211 

Middleton, J. S., 100 

Miners enlisted, 61-2 

Miners' Federation of Great Britain, 98, 

121, 128, 162 ff., 182, 216 f., 281 
Mines, Eight Hours Act, 272 
Mines, employment in, 77 
Mining Association, 162 
Minority Report, 101 
Mosses, W., 41, 185, 188 
Mundella, A. J., 261 
Municipal employees, 160 
Munition Tribunals, 221 ff. 
Munitions Act, 214 ff., 281, 291 
Munitions Committees. See Armaments 

Munitions, Ministry of, 196, 200, 207, 212 

Nation, 97, 218, 225 

National Amalgamated Union of Labour, 


National Education Association, 261 
National Guilds, 21, 150, 196 
National Register, 208, 240 
Nationalisation, 160 
Nationality, Ch. I. 
New Age, 189, 196, 224 
New Statesman, 147 
Newcastle, 64, 91, 243 
Newcastle Coal Exchange, 64 
Newcastle Relief Committee, 91 
Non-iesistance, 18 
Non-unionists, 169, 286 
North- East Coast Armaments Committee, 

196 ff. 
Nut and bolt trade, 271 

Ogden, J. W., 41 

Old Age Pensions, 159 

Ordnance Department, Master-General of, 


Overstrain, 116-17 
Overtime, 42, 44, 109, 149, 166, 169, 176, 

192, 193 
Oxford, Bishop of, 268 f. 

Painters and Decorators, 183 

Painters, Scottish, 183 

Pankhurst, Sylvia, 239 f., 250 

Parker, J., 35 

Parliament, 36 

Parliamentary Committee of the Trades 

Union Congress, 37, 39-41, 44, 55, 56, 98, 


Parliamentary Recruiting Campaign, 34-5, 
39. 4i, 49 

Patternmakers, 183 

Pease, J. A., 258, 260, 263, 265 

Pensions, 252 

Peto, Basil, 260 

Phillips, Marion, 234 

Piece-rates, 178 

Piecers, women as, 244 

Plumbers, Operative, 183 

Poland, 58 

Political Quarterly, 147 

Ponsonby, A., 214 

Poor Law, 88 

Post Office employees, 159 

Prevention of unemployment, 86, 91, 123 

Prices, 38, 46, 48, 59, 81, 99, Ch. V., 193, 
266, 279 

Production in Engineering and Shipbuild- 
ing Establishments, Committee on, 145, 
152 f., 154 ff., 158, 162, 166, 168, 172, 
176 ff., 185, 186, 193, 216, 279 

Profits, 6, 114, 118, 122, 125-6, 127-9, 135-7, 
164 f., 204, 220, 222, 266 

Profits, limitation of, 188-9, 218 fF. 

Profits, taxation of war, 220 

Queen Mary's Needlework Guild, 230 
Queen's Work for Women Fund, 94, 230 ff. 

Railway Clerks' Association, 240 
Railway trucks, pooling of, 122 
Railwaymen, N.U., 45, 98, 139, 143-4, M^i 

184, 245 f. 
Railways' General Managers' Committee, 


Railways, State control, 81, 290 
Railways, women on, 244 f. 
Recruiting, 31, 34-5, 60 ff. 
Relief Committees, 82-98, 100, 102-3, I2 3> 

175, 233 
Relief Fund, National, 82, 83, 85, 86, 92, 

95, 103-6, 108, no, 230, 232 
Relief Fund, National, Trade Unions and, 


Relief Funds, local, 105 
Relief of distress, 38, 44, 82-98, 100 
Relief Scales, 86, 91, 103-4 
Rents, 153 
Road Board, 82, 100 
Round Table, 225 
Runciman, Rt. Hon. W., 132, 185, 188, 189, 

217.. 2 34 

Russia, 12, 23, 25, 26, 29, 51, 59 
Russian Socialists, 15, 57-9 

Samuel, Herbert, 82, 93, 94 

Sandbach strike, 175 

Scarcity of labour, 74-5 

Scientific instrument makers, 172 

Scottish agriculture, 264, 266 

Scottish mines, 43 

Seddon, J. A., 41 

Semi-skilled labour, 156, 170 ff., 180 ff., 

187 ff., 192, 195, 208, 219, 280 ff. 
Sexton, J., 41, 210 
Sheet-metal workers, 183 


Sheffield, 243 

"Shells and Fuses "Agreement, 155 f., 176 f. 

Shields, South, 269 

Shipbuilding Employers' Federation, 156, 

Shipbuilding industry, 65, 70, 76, 121, 155 ff. 

Shipbuilding Trades Agreement Com- 
mittee, 183 

Shipowners, 125-6 

Shipwrights, 156, 183 

Shop assistants, women as, 241 

Shop Assistants' Union, 241, 251 

Smillie, R., 216, 225 

Smith, A., 41, 246 

Smith, Frank, 185 

Smith, H., 41 

Snowden, Philip, 57, 132, 217 f., 225 

Social Democrats (German), 12, 15, 22, 23, 

Socialists (Austrian), 15, 22, 23 

Socialists (Belgian), 57-9 

Socialists (French), 12, 22, 23, 57-9 

Socialists (Russian), 15, 57-9 

Soldiers' dependents, 107 

Soldiers for harvesting, 266 

South Wales Miners' Federation, 105, 163, 
164, 217, 226 

Speeding-up, 116-17, *93 

Spinners' Amalgamation, 165 f., 244 

Staffordshire Education Committee, 271 

Standard rates, 170, 176, 194, 232, 233 f., 
239 f. , 289 

State interference, 48, 80, 289 f. 

Steam Engine Makers, 172, 183 

Steel Smelters, 183 

Stock Exchange, 37 

Strike-breaking, 210, 221 

Strikes, 44, Ch. VI. 

Suffrage movement, 227 

Sunday labour, 206 

Sweating, 106 

Syndicalism, 12, 53, 150 

Teachers, National Union, 105, 263 

Tennant, H. J., 173 

Textile Factory Workers' Association, 98 

Textile industries, 65, 121 

Textile Workers, General Union, 78, 184, 


Thorne, Will, a6 
Time-keeping, 155, 196, 199, 201 ff. 

Times, 189, 210, 211 
Tinplate industry, 65 

Toolmakers, 172, 183 

Trade after the war, 276 f. 

Trade Boards, 234 

Trade Union rules, 42, 155 f., Ch. VII., 
279 ff. 

Trade Unionism, 97; 278 ff., and /aw////. 

Trade Unionists in Army and Navy, 60 ff. 

Trade Unions, emergency membership, 285 

Trade Unions, subsidies to, 97, 107-114 

Trades Union Congress, 27, 37, 39-43, 44, 
98, 211, 291. See also Parliamentary 

Tramway and Vehicle Workers, 246 f. 

Tramways, women on, 246 f. 
Transport amalgamation, 50 
Transport Workers' Federation, 98, 144, 

147, 184 

Treasury Agreement, 185 ff., 197, 242 
Treasury Conferences, 182 ff., 212 ff., 214 f., 

216, 239 

Triple Alliance, 49-50 
Typists, 240 

Unemployed Workmen Act, 82, 84, 89 
Unemployment, Ch. III., Ch. IV., 229 ff., 

Unskilled labour, 156, 170 ff., 179, 180 ff., 

187 ff., 195, 208, 219, 280 ff. 

Vaillant, E., 54 

Vehicle Works, London and Provincial 

Licensed, 246 
Verney, Sir H., 132, 264, 265 

Wages in war time, 115-16, 120-1, Ch. VI. 

Waitresses, 242 

War and the Workers, 101 

War bonus, 143 ff., 153, 156, 160 f., 162, 
164 ff. , 278 ft. 

War Emergency : Workers' National Com- 
mittee, 27-8, 32, 38, 41-2, 45, 60, 81, 86, 92, 
97-107, 118, 123-33, 135-6, 237, 249, 258, 
260, 263, 265, 266 f. 

War of Steel and Gold, 1 1 

War Office, 106, 168, 201, 205, 231, 271 

Weavers' Amalgamation, 66, 166 

Webb, Sidney, 101-2, 289 

Widnes, 269 

Wilkie, A., 185 



I'illiams, J. B., 41 
Williams, J. E., 41 
/illiams, R., 144 

Wolsingham Steel Works, 175 
Women workers. 65, 67-9, 85, 94, 121, 169, 
187, 209, Ch. VIII., 266 f.,273f., 285 ff., 291 
Women workers, new trades for, 240 ff. 
Women workers, Trade Unionism among, 

248 ff., 285 ff. 

Women's Advisory Committee, 94 
Women's Co-operative Guild, 98 
Women's Employment Central Committee, 

231 ff. 
Women's Employment Sub -Committees, 


Women's Freedom League, 238, 240 
Women's Labour League, 98 
Women's National Trade Union Confer- 
ence, 249 ff. 
Women's Register for War Service, 208, 

237, 249, 266 

Women's Trade Union League, 98 
Women's Training Centres, 102, 235 
Women's workrooms, 233 ff. 
Woodcutting machinists, 183 
Woollen industry, 64, 65, 76, 78, 121, 236, 

243 f., 288 

Woolwich Arsenal, 206, 286 
Worcestershire County Council, 261 
Workers' Union, 183 
Worlti of I,ai>om , 54 

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